Thursday, December 5, 2019
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Sketching out a blueprint for Meydan’s future

Dubai: Having successfully overseen the 19th edition of the Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest horse race meeting with a total prize money of $27.25 million, Saeed Al Tayer, Chairman and CEO, is already sketching out a blueprint that will forecast the immediate future for the Meydan brand.

A two million dollar increase in prize money for next year’s Dubai World Cup race meeting, taking total prize money to a staggering $29.25 million is an incidental development from a surplus of cautiously aggressive pursuits that Meydan plans to embark upon, or reshuffle. Al Tayer and his team are geared up to seize opportune moments.

Al Tayer has repeatedly insisted that Meydan’s commercial ventures are an offshoot of its principal commitment — the development of horse racing and its related industry. A glimpse of iconic pop star Jennifer Lopez vigorously promoting the swanky villas, set up in partnership with Meydan and the Sobha Group, in District One of Mohammed Bin Rashid City suggests that Meydan has propelled itself into the big league of local players with diverse interests. The Sobha Group is a multinational, multiproduct group with significant investments across the GCC, Far East and Africa. It was set up in 1976 by Indian entrepreneur PNC Menon.

Speaking to Gulf News a day after the Dubai World Cup, Al Tayer specifies a new template that has been introduced into the future development of Dubai: the Mohammed Bin Rashid City. Meydan, in an alliance with the Sobha Group, has been delegated with the development of District One. The project was sold out within six months since its announcement. Mohammed Bin Rashid City is Dubai’s new mega-development and is situated between Shaikh Zayed Road, emirates Road and Al Khail Road and will be constructed at a value of $60 billion.

“Today Meydan is a name that evokes opportunity. It’s about how we take advantage of this,” Al Tayer emphasised. “People who have worked with us are loyal to the product. The prospects that they have gained by seizing the right moments is proof that if they were to invest in future it would be us.

“The reasons are simple: we are sitting in an important corridor geographically. This corridor is the nearest zone to the Dubai business centre (a distance of just 3 kms from Burj Khalifa and the Business Bay area). If you see the growth in the Burj Khalifa area and take a glance at Meydan, with all the plans we have in the making, then you can get a fair idea of what will take shape in the next 2-3 years. Meydan has huge potential and we just have to stick to our original strategy and minimise the density. The idea is not to be tempted. We as a Board are watching closely for developments. Real estate has played an instrumental value to Dubai and Meydan brings a different element to it.”

Al Tayer is buoyed by the overwhelming response from investors in District One. The first wave of the second phase has also generated positive reactions. The project features 1,500 villas across more than 1,030 acres making it one of the world’s lowest density developments. Parks, lagoons and retail outlets will highlight the development.

“It is high end,” admitted Al Tayer, “But we knew that the product, after having studied it for almost a year, was for a niche market.”

The response from investors has set the pace for the finish line.

“We don’t shy away from being flexible,” he replied when asked if the project was protected from vibrations in the real estate market. “We are prepared to face changing scenarios and then we phase things out. We operate on a realistic view of the market. But we operate by trying to be ahead of the others in terms of operations. Once we are there then we can easily turn the corner should there be adverse changes to the market, or a scenario where less growth is projected.

“I don’t want to be negative but this can happen,” insisted Al Tayer. “If we capture the opportunities that exist in a niche market then we believe that this will be our forte for a few years. We don’t want to cater to every sector. Our benchmark is niche and luxury.”

Al Tayer, however, held out optimism for the upper mid range income group.

“ District 1 is the jewel in the crown. We are learning from it and we will be making villa construction as our focus in real estate. Not all will be high end. We are also looking to cater to the mid range to upper mid range income groups. When the show homes are ready investors will feel that they have made an upper class investment. We will not take chances and downgrade our product. Everybody deserves high quality with their standard investments. When you do volume then you must also assure quality and healthy pricing. This works as a win-win for everybody. Suffice to say that we will soon be presenting good quality mid range homes in terms of size and spec.”

Apart from real estate Al Tayer disclosed that other business ventures, one among which is pitchforking Meydan as a venue of choice for entertainment events, are being assessed. Discussions between promoters have been taking place in this regard and announcements will be made after due diligence has been carried out the sensibility of sustaining this venture.

“We have been studying a serious initiative for the past nine months,” he said. “We want to ensure that the entertainment options we finalise are sustainable and not a repeat of something that has taken place and therefore been exhausted in terms of novelty in some part of the world. We have a vision that what we want to do relates to the culture and society of this part of the world and is something that will be seen for the first time. It must not be a replication, or something that has been ‘imported’ for a few weeks just because Dubai is on the timetable and itinerary.”