Investment club with holidays thrown in

Company seeks UAE investors for shared use and ownership of luxury holiday properties

A company that offers shared ownership and use of luxury holiday properties such as ski chalets in the Swiss Alps, Caribbean penthouses and villas in the Algarve plans to seek investors in the UAE. The Hideaways Club intends to look for wealthy individuals to invest in its fund from a new base in Dubai, while it is on the lookout for luxury property in the region to boost its global portfolio.

Known as a destination club, it gives its members access to, and fractional ownership of, a number of different properties worldwide. Membership prices range from £127,500 (Dh693,700) to £245,000, with annual fees of between £7,000 and £14,000. For the highest price, you get between four and six weeks' use of the properties owned by the fund. "It's an alternative to second-home ownership," said Mike Balfour, the chairman and co-founder of The Hideaways Club.

Mr Balfour said that as property prices had dropped, people were less willing to take the risk of buying wholly owned holiday homes in one location. He said the fund was also investigating properties in Dubai and Oman. "One of the advantages is that we are benefiting from buying properties at prices that have not been seen for some time," Mr Balfour said. "What we are able to do in this market is pick up a lot of properties at 30 to 40 per cent less than what they were three years ago."

The fund has 170 investors and owns 27 multimillion-dollar luxury properties. The target is to have 100 properties and 600 members, after which the fund would close. The company is registered in Gibraltar and based in London. "Your investment buys a share in a Gibraltar-registered property company which owns all of the individual properties," the company's website says. "This company is 100 per cent owned by the members. The management of the club does not own any part of this company. If the value of the portfolio increases in value, so does the value of your share."

In the Gulf, the company said it was "specifically targeting expats and nationals who are looking to combine investments with exclusive access to luxury properties". Analysts noted it was interesting that the Hideaways Club was marketing itself as an investment product, whereas other companies had opted to sell their offerings as lifestyle packages. "Leading and reputable timeshare and shared ownership companies have shied away from describing their products as an investment," said Chiheb ben Mahmoud, the senior vice president for the MENA region at Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels. "The focus in marketing the products has been put instead on the holiday and lifestyle components of the propositions as opposed to any financial return, explicit or implicit reference."

Last month, The Hideaways Club announced it had formed a partnership with Etihad Airways to offer its members exclusive fares and services. @Email:rbundhun@thenational.ae

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