MEED’s top 100 ranking of Gulf developers is dominated by UAE firms, who account for 67 per cent of the list. But beyond the emirates’ show-stealing real estate schemes lies a growing pool of multi-billion-dollar projects in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
Just nine Saudi companies make the top 100, but between them they have $54.7bn worth of projects planned or under way.
For developers, there are a many strong attractions in the Saudi market. First, the country’s population is young – 15 million people are under 30 years old, meaning residential units will soon be in short supply.
The government’s economic diversification programme is also proving a huge draw. The $27bn King Abdullah Economic City is the largest private sector-led project in the region. Its residential, business and industrial zones will provide housing and employment for the next generation of Saudis.
The government’s apparent rush to develop on such a large scale has attracted criticism. Sales at King Abdullah Economic City have been strong – reaching SR1bn by July – but other elements of the wider programme to develop six economic cities are making slower progress, as the rationale behind building them in often remote locations is questioned.
But despite any difficulties, the scale of opportunities available means that Saudi developers should have a far larger presence in the top 100 in future years.