UAE developers start to look overseas again

03 July 2014

Major new real estate projects planned by Abu Dhabi’s Eagle Hills in Serbia and Nigeria

UAE real estate developers have started to plan major masterplanned projects overseas again, as the global property market continues to show signs of improvement.

The most significant new projects are planned by a new Abu Dhabi-based developer known as Eagle Hills, which is headed by Emaar Properties’ chairman Mohammed Alabbar. It is unclear whether there are any other connections with the Dubai-based developer, and it is understood that Eagle Hills is backed by the Abu Dhabi government.

In late June, Alabbar was in Nigeria to launch Eagle Hills’ Centenary City development in Abuja, which will reportedly require $18.6bn of investment.

The sprawling scheme in the Nigerian capital includes a new financial centre, 256 apartment buildings, 260 villas, a luxury hotel and resort, five retail centres including the Nigeria Mall, a golf course, a heritage park, an opera house, the Museum of African Arts, an amusement park and a 5.5-kilometre-long Formula 1 standard race track.

The project follows the announcement of another major scheme planned by Eagle Hills in Serbia, which is reportedly expected to cost $5.4bn to develop.

The Belgrade Waterfront project will be built on the banks of the Sava River. It will include the tallest tower in the Balkans region, Kula Belgrade – “kula” means tower in Serbian – and the region’s largest shopping centre, Belgrade Mall.

Other elements include a commercial centre, waterfront residential towers, eight hotels and Belgrade Park.

Emaar has developed the key elements of both these projects extensively in Dubai and the aim is to recreate these developments in more emerging markets.

UAE developers were keen to develop projects overseas before 2008, with a range of companies launching schemes across the Middle East in countries such as Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey. Further afield, projects were planned in Russia, Vietnam, China, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

Although some of these schemes have proceeded, many stalled as the global financial crisis and the collapse of Dubai’s property market hampered the ability of developers to deliver new projects.

Some developers are now planning to restart the schemes that had slowed. In May, Dubai developer Limitless reaffirmed its plans to develop its Halong Star project in Vietnam. Halong Star’s masterplan includes homes, retail facilities and a hotel, all overlooking the Unesco World Heritage Site of Halong Bay on Vietnam’s northeastern coast.

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