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Egyptian developer Sodic to invest $336m in 2015

Sodic, one of Egypt's largest listed real estate developers, plans to invest E2.4 billion ($336 million) in 2015 and is on the lookout for new projects as the sector recovers from three years of turmoil, as its Managing Director said.

Egypt's once-booming construction sector was hit hard by the 2011 revolt that ended Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule, but ushered in a period of economic and political volatility.

Many large real estate contracts were cancelled in the wake of the revolt and investment dried up.

Three years on, the economy is showing the first signs of recovery, bringing an uptick in demand for property in the Arab world's most populous country.

Speaking at the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit, Ahmed Badrawi was bullish, saying it was a good time to invest in the sector with Sodic likely to have made E2.5 billion ($348.6 million) worth of investments by the end of this year.

"We are also targeting investments worth E2.4 billion ($336 million) next year," he said, adding that the figure could rise, if Sodic takes on new projects on the Mediterranean coast or elsewhere.

"The market is strong and that is why we are investing strongly...We are planning for the next five years. We see this as the right time to expand strongly inside Egypt and that is why we have bought the new land and increased our capital."

Sodic will complete a deeply discounted E1-billion ($139.5 million) capital increase on the Egyptian stock exchange on Thursday.

Badrawi said two-thirds of that money would be invested in a new project in the upscale Cairo suburb of Heliopolis, while the rest would be dedicated to new land Sodic is seeking to buy either on the northern coast or outside the sprawling capital.

Sodic plans to begin construction and offer the first phase of units in the mixed-use development on its 1.3-million-sqm site in Heliopolis before the end of the year.

It won rights to the land earlier this year and is targeting sales of E300-600 million ($41.8 to $55.8 million) in the first phase and E9 billion ($1.25 billion) from the whole project, which it has yet to name.

Badrawi said Sodic had also won a 2010 auction for 63,000 sqm of land in the Nile Delta town of Mansoura where it plans to build a mall at a cost of E310 million ($43.2 million). It expects to take control of the land this year.

Badrawi said Sodic, also known as Sixth of October Development and Investment Company, was currently working on eight projects. Its portfolio comprises 11 million sqm, including 3.6 million sqm that have yet to be exploited.

"We wanted to get rid of all our problems from the previous period and we succeeded in this. The figures from the second half of this year will not be dissimilar from the numbers in the first half," he said.

In May, US private equity firm Ripplewood acquired a near 10 per cent stake in Sodic, in anticipation of an economic recovery following three years of upheaval.

Despite billions of dollars that have poured in from Gulf countries in the past year, Egypt's economy grew a meagre 2.2 per cent in the 2013/14 fiscal year ended in June.

But demand for housing remains strong and officials have said Egypt needs around 500,000 new units a year to meet demand. New satellite towns have sprung up around Cairo in recent years, many offering plush amenities away from the busy centre, while billboards advertising coastal holiday homes dot the capital.

Badrawi said sales had reached E2.2 billion ($306.8 million) so far this year and could exceed E2.7 billion ($376.5 million) by the end of 2014 after it brings the next phase of its West Town project to market next week and sells the first units in Heliopolis later this year.

"The real estate sector is growing strongly. There is a big shortage of property in Egypt and demand outstrips supply. We offered a phase in one of our projects two weeks ago and demand for units was fierce...I am very optimistic about this sector," he added.-Reuters

Steigenberger expands presence in Egypt

In a bid to continue its drive for international growth, Steigenberger Hotel Group is to open two new properties in Egypt, in central locations on Tahrir Square, Cairo and on Saad Zagloul Square, Alexandria.

The Hotel Tahrir Square in Cairo will operate under the Steigenberger name, as of July 2016. The existing Cecil Hotel in Alexandria will be taken over immediately. This latest expansion means that the number of Steigenberger establishments in the country will increase to seven, plus three luxury Nile ships.

The Steigenberger Hotel Tahrir Square will have a total of 295 rooms including 12 suites as well as five conference rooms and a large banquet hall. A gym and beauty spa facilities will also be available. The Steigenberger Cecil Hotel is an existing property located on the Mediterranean Coast. Its 86 rooms include three la carte restaurants, three bars, meeting rooms and a gym.

CEO, Steigenberger Hotels, Puneet Chhatwal believes that the two management agreements in Cairo and Alexandria represent an ideal vehicle for the continuation of the group's successful expansion strategy: "Following the signing of management agreements for projects in China, Doha and Dubai, the two major cities of Egypt are an ideal addition to our portfolio of hotels at attractive locations.

Majid Al Futtaim to build $683m Mall of Egypt

Majid Al Futtaim is set to invest 4.9 billion Egyptian pounds ($683.4 million) in the construction of the Mall of Egypt.

Top government officials including Ibrahim Mahlab, Egyptian Prime Minister, along with Ashraf Salman, Ministry of Investment and Dr. Mostafa Madbouli, Minister of Housing, visited the construction site, with MAF top management.

Alain Bejjani, Chief Corporate Development and Brand Officer, MAF Holding, said: "Majid Al Futtaim has been operating in Egypt for more than 12 years, providing Egyptians with dynamic retail experiences from Cairo to Alexandria as well as other governorates.

"Egypt is one of the most promising markets in the region; our commitment to investing in Egypt has been and will continue to be a strategic one that we seek to develop through pumping new investments as the country moves to a new promising phase. Our ultimate objective continues to be providing an unparalleled retail experience that meets the increasingly sophisticated interests of Egyptian consumers."

Located in 6th of October City, on Al Wahat Road, the two-level mall will span a gross leasable area (GLA) of 165,000 sqm and will include over 420 stores presenting offerings from a variety of international and local brands, said a statement.

In addition to the diverse retail mix, Mall of Egypt will also feature more than 50 food and beverage outlets as well as a 21-screen VOX cinema multiplex; Magic Planet; and Ski Egypt, the first indoor ski slope in the continent of Africa, it said.

It will also feature a Carrefour Hypermarket along with a total of 6,500 parking spaces and is projected to open in 2016.

Abdallah El Nockrashy, MAF Properties country head for Egypt, said: "Majid Al Futtaim is committed to maintaining and expanding its business in Egypt, especially that we believe that the market is ready for more investment. We are optimistically looking forward to further growth - growth we believe will yield beneficial results not only to our business, but to the economy at large.

"Egypt is undergoing a great transformation that promises a new age of prosperity. As such we're keen to actively take part in this process through establishing a project that will create thousands of direct and indirect job opportunities, as well as, encourage current players in the retail industry to expand their businesses and open new opportunities."

In the pre-opening phase, Mall of Egypt subcontracted nearly 9,000 engineers and workers from international and Egyptian companies to complete the construction.

Its senior operations team and mall staff consist of 98 per cent Egyptians, while the mall aims to source 90 percent of its procurements locally.

Meanwhile, the company has also invested 250 million Egyptian pounds in road works to provide traffic solutions for roads surrounding the site to facilitate traffic flow in the area and allow visitors direct and safe access from Al Wahat Road.

It is also set to incorporate international best practices in sustainability with the objective of promoting environmental efficiency while delivering benefits to the community, customers and supply chains alike, said the statement.

The mall is working with relevant local partners to help develop, implement and eventually maintain the sustainability strategy, to achieve this objective. The strategy includes developing environmental data management system in order to effectively measure and monitor efficiency achieved in managing energy, water and waste. - TradeArabia News Service

Qatar's real estate prices hit new high

Qatar's real estate price index hit an all-time high, surging a record 42 per cent this September, compared to the same month last year, said a report.

The country's real estate prices has been steadily rising throughout this year except May, when the index fell marginally to 213.8 points from April's 216 points. The prices, however, rebounded by hitting 230.6 points, or 7.8 per cent, up in June, reported The Peninsula, citing Qatar Central Bank (QCB) data.

QCB quarterly update of the index touched a record 253.8 points in the month, rising much higher than Qatar's pre-Asian games levels of 192.2 points, and is up from 178.6 points recorded a year ago, the report added.

According to the QCB data, the real estate sector accounts for the highest share of bank credit in Qatar, after public sector institutions. However, the central bank's latest financial stability report noted the credit to the real estate sector was marginally down by 0.2 per cent during 2013, from a high 12.3 percent recorded during 2011-12.

The real estate prices were up 10 percent higher on quarter-on-quarter and five percent higher on month-on-month basis, it stated.

High land value was the main driver of overall real estate prices in Qatar. For instance, March witnessed land transactions worth an approximate QR2.8 billion ($768 million) making an estimated 67 percent of overall transactions.

The ministry's weekly transaction data for September shows a steady increase in the transaction value. The transaction value between August 31 and September 4 recorded QR431 million ($118 million).

The transaction value jumped to a whopping QR1.49 billion ($408 million) during the week ended October 2, 2014, said the report.

The outlook for Qatar's real estate sector has been projected as 'strong' by various market analysts. Investments in the country's real estate sector are set to increase in the coming months, the report added.

Qatar Cool launches new website

Qatar District Cooling Company (Qatar Cool) has launched its new website and online bill payment service. The website has been designed to best reflect Qatar Cool's public profile, providing information on district cooling and the company as well as offering customers a secure, easy and efficient way to gain greater flexibility over the payment of their bills.

Ahmad Shehadeh, Chief Financial Officer (acting CEO) of Qatar Cool said: "We serve many different kinds of customers and understand that while some like to visit our offices, others would prefer to meet their requirements online. We want to do the best job we can, to serve all needs and believe our new website and online payment service deliver on this."

Recognised as "the most efficient, cost effective and environmentally friendly solution to satisfy Qatar's growing cooling demands, Qatar Cool has been leading the focus on eco-friendly technologies in the region." As a result, the company's operations have been steadily growing over the past few years.

Qatar Cool recently reached 100,000 tonnes of refrigeration signed contracts at The Pearl-Qatar where it owns and operates 'the Integrated District Cooling Plant (IDCP)', which was inaugurated in 2010. IDCP is the world's largest district cooling plant with a capacity of 130,000 tonnes of refrigeration to cool the Island's 45,000 residents once fully occupied.

IDs to feature residential address soon

The Qatari identity (ID) card for citizens as well as expatriates may soon begin featuring residential addresses of the holder for security and other reasons.

The State Cabinet yesterday approved a draft decision of the interior minister that specifies what personal information of the holder is to be put on his ID card.

The draft also talks of the documents to be produced and procedures to be taken to procure an ID card, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

According to a prominent lawyer, there already is a law that makes it mandatory for people to notify the police of their postal as well as physical addresses.

And every time a Qatari or expatriate changes his residence, he must notify the police, said the lawyer, Mohsin Thiyab Al Suwaidi.

However, while Qataris do not change their residence frequently and intimate the police if they do, expatriates normally don't.

Also, since most Qataris live in their own homes, the government has their whereabouts in its record, which isn't the case with most expatriates.

This is because the legislation that makes it binding on people to inform the police of address change isn't enforced seriously, Al Suwaidi said.

"But from the interior ministry's draft decision approved by the Cabinet yesterday it is obvious that it is now going to enforce the law quite seriously," he added.

Not having records of expatriates' physical addresses creates problems related to security as also for the judiciary, according to Al Suwaidi.

In court cases, summons is issued with police help and the police find it difficult to trace the address of an expatriate involved since there is no official record of his address. Also, in Qatar, the exact location of their homes, many people are not aware of, said the lawyer.

"If you call the emergency number 999, the only thing they ask you is where you stay and you normally stammer struggling to explain.

"Most probably, you don't know the street name and number. But once your ID card has details of the location where you stay, you could tell your address.

"This is an additional advantage of having your address written on your ID card," Al Suwaidi said.

"It is with this intention that the interior ministry is mulling putting postal as well as physical address on a holder's ID card."

New visas fees come into force 25 Oct 2014

Manama, Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs (NPRA) has affirmed that the fee unification with the Foreign Ministry to be in effect on 25 October 2014, the beginning of the Islamic new year (Hijri year).

The fee amendment will mainly cover foreign visitors, but with a slight effect on Bahraini citizens, while fees at the King Fahad Causeway will remain unchanged. NPRA has also announced that more facilitation will be introduced in 2015.

Al-Ramli housing project on track despite challenges

Manama. Work on Al-Ramli housing project is expected to start early next year on finalizing budget procedures, it was announced.

The massive development project which includes more than 3500 housing units to cater to old applications featuring on the waiting lists as soon as possible.

The Housing Ministry has started over the past two years, appropriating large land plots to draw up necessary designs so as to start carrying out Al-Ramli project.

The ministry said that older applications featuring on the waiting lists would have the priority when allocating the housing units.

The massive city-like housing project would feature key facilities, facilities, green spaces and open areas, including mosques and schools.

In a statement today, the ministry said that the project is still confronting some challenges which may curb its execution and cause its delay.

It cited particularly the acts of some people who rallied to block the contractor who was commissioned to undertake the land-leveling work. They are preventing the contractor from having access to part of the allocated land under the pretext that it is Waqf-owned.

The ministry urged relevant official authorities and non-governmental parties to support its efforts so as to overcome challenges which are curbing the strategic project.

Watchmen to be made mandatory for Muscat buildings soon

Muscat: In an effort to make buildings more secure and enhance safety of residents, Muscat Municipality plans to introduce a rule making it mandatory for all two-storeyed buildings in the capital to employ watchmen.

The rule is being mooted following an increase in cases of theft around the capital, an official at Muscat Municipality, told Times of Oman.

The official pointed out that such a move would help in reducing the number of thefts in the buildings in the city.

"There is a need for constant monitoring," said the official.

Article 31 and local order number 92\23 together stipulate that buildings in the capital, whether commercial or residential, with more than four floors should have a room with a toilet for a watchman near their main entrance.

Residents have welcomed the Muscat Municipality plan and believe this would make buildings safer to live in.

Narrating an incident, Mohammed Fahmi, an Egyptian expatriate, told the Times of Oman, "A thief broke into our flat and stole valuables when my family and I were out of the country for our annual vacation last year.

"Muscat Municipality must enact this rule as soon as possible. There have been so many incidents of theft reported in areas like Ruwi, Wadi Kabir, Seeb and Mutrah in the last few years."

Juma Al Mahrooqi, a national, has urged Muscat Municipality to ask owners of buildings to install CCTV cameras within the premises. "This will enhance safety and security in the buildings," he said.

An official of the Royal Oman Police (ROP) told the Times of Oman that the new rule would curb thefts which had become a common occurrence earlier in numerous buildings.

The official called on Omanis and expatriates to be more careful while going out of their flats and houses and not to leave any valuables lying around inside the house.

According to the ROP, many thieves were caught by the ROP and produced before the courts. As many as 112 people were accused of committing 130 thefts nationwide last August, added the official.

Abu Dhabi's real estate market stable in Q3

Average residential leasing and sales prices in Abu Dhabi, UAE, remained relatively steady in the third quarter with the apartment and villa sales year-on-year still offering returns of 28 and 14 per cent respectively, said a report.

The Abu Dhabi real estate market was left relatively unchanged, with little or no movement on average in residential sales or leasing prices, according to Asteco.

The modest price increases and decreases were recorded in localized communities; however, growing confidence and improved investor sentiment is likely to support sustainable growth in the short to medium term, stated the property expert in its third quarter real estate report for Abu Dhabi.

Although average apartment sales prices changed little quarter-on-quarter, a 28 per cent increase was witnessed annually to end of the third quarter of 2014.

This trend was mirrored by villa sales prices, which were flat during the third quarter, despite the limited availability of stock, but still achieved an average annual increase of 14 per cent across the market, it stated.

Jerry Oates, the general manager at Asteco Abu Dhabi, said: "The popularity of developments within investment areas is a trend that continues to be simulated quarter on quarter as sales prices firm up. The sales volumes achieved by Aldar on the Ansam and Al Hadeel projects at Al Raha Beach and Yas Island have highlighted the robust demand for the right type of product within investment zones."

The market also received a considerable vote of confidence with the launch of the Mamsha Al Saadiyat on Saadiyat Island.

The 400-plus luxury residential units, comprising of one to four-bedroom apartments and townhouses, command an average sales price of Dh2,000 ($544) per sq ft, and will act as a catalyst for additional projects expected to be launched in 2015, further outlining the growth potential over the next three to four years.

"Market sustainability will be enhanced still further by a range of new to market developments in 2015, this, combined with a more transparent market for UAE national investors through Abu Dhabi's rental index, which benchmarks and regulates maximum rental increases will encourage future growth in the UAE capital," he added.

Rental rates for prime residential apartments in Abu Dhabi remained relatively stable with certain developments such as Sun & Sky Towers achieving close to full occupancy. Rates in Marina Square witnessed a decrease of three per cent, as Reem Island became more competitive due to a number of new units coming on line, including The Gate Towers, Aldar's landmark development.

For low end properties on Abu Dhabi Island, including Central Abu Dhabi, the Corniche and Khalidiya/Bateen, a quarter-on-quarter decrease of five, two and four per cent respectively, with prices for a two-bed apartment topping at Dh90, 000 ($24,497), Dh80,000 ($21,775) and Dh100,000 ($27,219) for each location.

Investment areas such as Reef Downtown saw no growth quarter-on-quarter, although they witnessed an annual increase of 26 per cent.

The rental market for villas echoed that of apartments as high-end villa rental rates remained stable despite limited new supply.

A three-bed property on Abu Dhabi Island in Bloom Gardens saw a quarter-on-quarter increase of five per cent, averaging between Dh 190, 000 ($51,717) and Dh 240, 000 ($65,327).

The office market levelled out in the mid- to high-end areas, Grade A office space achieved net effective rental rates estimated at Dh1,700 ($462) per sq m for fully fitted space; an indication that rental rates have now bottomed out.

Significant improvements in infrastructure, retail, available services as well as a range of competitive rates and incentives have had a positive impact on demand for offices on Reem Island, particularly for both Sky Tower at Shams Abu Dhabi and Tamouh Tower at Marina Square. Trade Arabia News Service

Aldar to launch new projects in three months

Abu Dhabi's Aldar Properties will launch a few new projects in the next three to four months, the real estate developer's chief financial officer said on Wednesday.

Aldar, Abu Dhabi's largest property company which is majority-owned by the emirate's government, was rescued by a $10-billion state bailout in 2010 following a market crash, but is now resurgent following a merger with rival Sorouh Real Estate and a dramatic recovery in most segments of the UAE's property sector.

The company's new projects will mostly target mid-income buyers and tenants, Greg Fewer told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Dubai, UAE. He did not provide details.

Fewer said Abu Dhabi house prices had risen 25 per cent over the last 12 months and were now "healthy and stable".

Aldar is expected in the coming weeks to announce its third-quarter earnings. Two analysts polled by Reuters forecast Aldar would make a third-quarter net profit of between Dh382.6 million and Dh441.9 million ($104.2 million and $120.4 million). That compares with a quarterly profit of Dh407.5 million ($110.9 million) in the prior-year period.

Saudi Arabia to make insulation of buildings mandatory

Saudi Arabia will soon make it mandatory for residential buildings in 24 major cities across the kingdom to have thermal insulation in a bid to save on rising energy costs, said a report.

About 70 percent of residential buildings in the country lack thermal insulation, reported Arab News, citing Municipal and Rural Affairs Minister Prince Mansour bin Miteb.

He was speaking at the opening of the Saudi Energy Efficiency Forum and Exhibition 2014, which opened on Tuesday (October 21) at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Centre in the Saudi capital.

Prince Mansour pointed out that the thermal insulation would rationalize the consumption of energy and bring many benefits to the country and its citizens.

The Saudi Energy Efficiency Forum is an attempt by the government to control and rationalize energy consumption in the kingdom and raise efficiency in buildings, transportation and industrial sectors, which account for 90 per cent of local energy usage, he added.

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