REITs are tax-efficient investment vehicles which can be listed on stock markets in a similar way to company shares.

According to John Sandwick, managing director of Encore, the fund hopes to be able to invest in projects by mid-January 2009.

“If we are not able to secure a fund in the hundreds of millions of dollars by January then we will have failed,” he says.

The key to a REIT, he says, is to raise money from small investors and invest in big-scale projects.

“The risk is passed to the shareholder of the REIT,” he says. “It allows everyone to buy property. It is purely an Islamic, sharia-compliant asset.”

Sumou is part of the Al-Oula Group, a Saudi Arabian real estate firm.