Image Credit: Nick Rochowski Photography

Dubai: For a developer that has had deals worth Dh102 million and Dh90 million for just two of its units in the last 15 months, the easiest thing for Omniyat Properties would have been to launch sales the moment the next project was launched. But Mahdi Amjad, the CEO, is not having any of that.

“We will wait until the full structure of The Dorchester Collection – a twin-tower near the Canal – is done before launching sales,” said Amjad. “That will happen sometime in the second half of 2019… we are prepared to take our time about when to have the sales launch.

“The way the market is headed, buyers are asking for detailed information about a project. That’s something that will become available only as a project advances and developers are in a position to share far more details.”

The Dorchester project will have a hotel taking up one of the structures while luxury apartments take up the other. The residences be quite expansive, ranging from 5,000 square feet to 20,000.

Omniyat made quite a stir late 2017 by signing up a buyer for one of three penthouses on the One Palm, its super-luxury residential tower on the Palm. This was for Dh102 million, and one of the priciest deals for a penthouse in Dubai. Another one has been “reserved” for Dh90 million. The property, which takes up quite a prominent spot on the Palm, will be ready for occupation next year.

With sales not being a priority for now, Omniyat is busy going full tilt with its roster of projects – the intention is to complete six of its seven ongoing projects in 2019 and then go on to complete the Dorchester in 2020, (Just ahead of the Expo 2020 event opening, to be precise.)

“The big focus will be on our under construction projects and making sure we can have a massive delivery year,” said Amjad. “These seven projects have a combined value of Dh8 billion. Each time, we have tried to bring in a different product that the market has not seen – that’s been appreciated in how they have performed sales-wise when the market sentiments have been less difficult. And even when the market’s been difficult.”

Developers, at least some of the bigger names, have been making changes in their launch and sales strategy. The emphasis is on getting the existing projects past the completion date, preferably in line with the original schedules.

But by not going in for periodic launches, aren’t developers losing out on sustaining their top-line numbers? “In terms of launches, we have never looked at them as something we should do within a certain period,” said Amjad. “Whether we launch in 2019 or 2022 shouldn’t make a difference – what we need to get right at all times is having the right product for the market.”

That’s not the same as saying it won’t be doing anything with its existing land bank – four projects are being conceptualized and which would be launched as and when the market is primed for them.

One thing Amjad is categorically ruling out is selling any of the land bank to raise funds for existing construction. “All of our land bank are in super-prime locations in Dubai and it will remain on our books,” the CEO said. “We see a good horizon for launching new projects... as and when the time allows us. But for 2019, the focus is on delivery and not launches.”

Is it time for Omniyat to consider getting in a strategic investor at the parent company level? In the 13 years of its operations, there has been constant market speculation that the developer would make such a move.

“We have always had partners at individual project levels, in the form of high networth investors or financial institutions,” said Amjad. “More than 90 per cent of these were from within the GCC. But they stop at the project level - not at Omniyat corporate. We will keep it that way.”

Aiming for a repeat of history

* The first Dorchester hotel in Dubai is heading for an opening just ahead of the Expo 2020 opening date in October that year. The residential component will have less than 50 units.

* While the offices at The Opus - designed by the late Zaha Hadid, an eminence grise of bespoke architecture in her time - are ready, phase representing the hotel and serviced apartments are due to open in December 2019. “Offices take up 70 per cent of the overall building and we have so far sold 90 per cent of these units,” said Mahdi Amjad.