Majid Al Futtaim plans to grow its real estate division to rival its malls and hospitality divisions in terms of revenue and profit.
Hawazen Esber, CEO of MAF Communities told Arabian Business: “We are very established in terms of shopping malls and retail, so now we want to grow our communities business to be eventually as big as the other businesses. We're happy to be a boutique developer, but with the biggest impact possible.”
Majid Al Futtaim Communities division has four major projects underway in Dubai, Muscat, Sharjah and Beirut, including the $3.8bn Tilal Al Ghaf mixed-use development in Dubai.
In an exclusive interview, Esber said Majid al Futtaim is leveraging all the tools it has developed in retail and hospitality to meet the evolving demands of its real estate customers.
“We want to bring this sector to a more human scale. In the shopping mall business there was a competition to get bigger and bigger. We want to go smaller and really understand what people want, rather than what developers want to do for them,” Esber said.
Majid Al Futtaim Properties, which includes shopping malls, hotels and communities, reported a revenues of AED2.3bn in the first six months of 2018 (an increase of one percent), primarily driven by its shopping malls business.
Revenue in its retail division still leads the way. It generated 15 percent revenue growth at AED14.6bn.
Esber said MAF Communities aims to be different to other established large scale developers.
“The region has been suffering from very big projects that require a cookie-cutter approach, and that's why they all look the same," he said.
"We want to build integrated communities with all the activities that you are looking for in a city. This is where we can really shine. At Majid Al Futtaim we have the DNA and the experience to be able to bring these components – be they cultural, physical or leisure activities - together. This is the space that we want to be in.”
Tilal Al Ghaf, 100 percent owned by MAF Communities, is located at the intersection of Hessa Street and Sheikh Zayed Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan Street, near Dubai Sports City. The mixed-use 355,000 sq-m project will take over ten years to finish.
The project will feature a series of interconnected green parks with 11km of cycling and walking trails and 18km pedestrian trail. The centrepiece is a 70,000 sq-m Crystal Lagoon that Esber says requires a quarter of the water that a golf course would need, and will have water so clean it could be drinkable, allowing it to be used for swimming and water sports.
Of the 6,500 freehold homes at Tilal al Ghaf, prices will range from under AED1m for studio apartments, through to AED16m for the waterside villas – some of which have already been sold already.
Infrastructure and land-forming work has been concluded, with a show village and “some community amenities” slated for completion this year.
Majid Al Futtaim also has a ventures division – a diverse portfolio of cinemas, leisure and entertainment, fashion, consumer finance, food and beverage and facility and energy management. It revenes increased by 13 percent to AED1.1 billion – or AED 1.5 billion including joint ventures and associates.