Jumeirah Central to be showcased in Cannes

Dubai Holding is to present the first seven projects to be brought forward at its Dh73.5 billion Jumeirah Central project at its international launch event at the Mipim global real estate conference in Cannes next month.

Morgan Parker, the chief operating officer of Jumeirah Central, tells The National that it is targeting the event because it gives Dubai Holding the opportunity to attract the type of international institutional investors that it is looking to engage with to fund many of the 278 projects that are expected to be built on the site, which sits opposite Mall of the Emirates.

“We have a large presence there and we have scheduled dozens and dozens of meetings already with these investors,” says Mr Parker. “We have ongoing discussions with half a dozen international investors right now from various parts of the world — none of whom have invested in Dubai before, all of whom are looking at investing with us now.

“You can just imagine once one in this select group of top tier institutional investors takes the plunge and invests in Dubai what that means for the city, what it means to other investors who are always looking at what their competitors are doing and when they are investing.

“And I think it will represent a watershed moment in this city’s evolution.”

Mr Parker says the first seven projects presented will include a couple of grade A office towers, including one outside the Sharaf DG metro site, hotels, residential towers, a hospital and an education building.

He said although these “represent a microcosm of what Jumeirah Central is” in terms of its diversity of uses, these have not been specifically hand-picked.

“They really are the first seven we have ready to go. I’ve talked in the past about creating a factory of assets and that’s the only way I know how to think about Jumeirah Central. It’s so big and it needs a framework to bring assets to market to have them successfully delivered.”

The Dh24bn first phase of Jumeirah Central involves 69 projects – about 40 of which Mr Parker has said would be most suited to institutional investors, while many of the rest will be marketed towards local or regional developers.

“You need to create assets that have a certain gravitas and weight to them economically that warrants one of these big pension funds or sovereign funds taking note,” he said.

“They are not necessarily going to take a US$20 million, four-storey building. That’s more the domain of a family office or a high net-worth individual.

“So the scale of investment is something that we were thinking about when creating the master plan and looking at ticket sizes of around $100m.

“If you look at the number of transactions that occur worldwide with institutional investors, you see this sweet spot of transactions around that level.”

Meanwhile, a separate set of talks is under way to find a joint venture partner to develop the main retail mall that will be delivered under phase one – the first of three major malls planned for Jumeirah Central.

This will have about 100,000 square metres of retail space and contain three integrated towers of about 30,000 sq m each that will be used as a hotel, office block and residential space.

Mr Parker said its “bespoke partner selection process” for this mall has involved talks with both local and international companies.

“That is the largest asset in phase one in terms of monetary value.

“It would be something that would be of interest to institutional investors, no doubt. But we’ve received so much interest from people directly eliciting relationships with us some time ago that we’ve run a separate process.”

Gaurav Shivpuri, the head of investment transactions at JLL Mena, said that more institutional capital has found its way into the UAE real estate market over the past decade.

“These investors include closed-ended Real Estate Funds, some of which were created as early as 2005, publicly-listed Real Estate Investment Trusts [REITs] and the arrival in recent times of insurance companies and pension funds, which see real estate as an excellent match for their long-term liabilities.”


Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter