Mohammed Al Saqqaf and Renimah Al Mattar | United Real Estate Company | Video

World Finance interviews Mohammad al Saqqaf and Renimah Al Mattar, CEO and Executive Vice President of United Real Estate Company, on some of their latest projects in the MENA region.

August 28, 2013

United Real Estate Company is a Kuwait-based real estate developer that spearheads a markedly different approach to development. Discussing some of their award-winning projects are Mohammed Al Saqqaf, CEO, and Renimah Al Mattar, Executive Vice President of United Real Estate Company.

World Finance: Mohammed, United Real Estate’s approach to property development contrasts from others in the MENA region, so what sets you apart?

Mohammed Al Saqqaf: Well actually I think what sets any company apart from it’s competitors is the quality of the people, the quality of the management. Anybody in a leadership position has the option either to be surrounded by executors or contributors. Personally, I prefer the latter. So this is important in order to get all the bright ideas out, and you therefore examine all the opportunities that you have in any development. Furthermore, one last thing, in our process we always integrate all of the disciplines of the development cycle from the get go, and this way, we have the buy in of all of our teams into what we are developing.

“As a developer, we make sure that we are very conscious about what we contribute to the built environment”

World Finance: Renimah, do you feel you’ve had to sacrifice design or revenue or in the process of increasing sustainability?

Renimah Al Mattar: Absolutely not. I think what we’ve realised is the challenge is trying to make sure that people understand what sustainability is all about. So as a developer, we make sure that we are very conscious about what we contribute to the built environment. But some of the things that we know that are demand-drivers, which then equates into revenue, is making sure that you have a market for your developments. So we make sure that we look at things like energy utilisation, energy conservation which is more important, looking at building materials, looking at what we’re using and making sure they have a low impact on the environment, and we believe that all of those things actually contribute to a better development, so they don’t impede on your design aesthetically at all.

World Finance: Mohammed, tell us about Salalah Gardens Mall in Oman, what made this an award-winning project?

Mohammed Al Saqqaf: Well, I have to give credit to those who had the vision to develop such a project in Salalah. It is a first-time development in this region, in that particular region in Salalah, and what sets this project aside is the fact that it’s a shopping mall with a hospitality component in it as well. We have managed to lease it out very quickly and bringing in home-grown, if you will, businesses into the mall and that has created the foot traffic that we needed and impacted the community in a very positive way.

“Our project is sort of the iconic project within that master development”

World Finance: And Renimah, you also won an award for the Abdali Mall project in Jordan, why do you think this was recognised in this way?

Renimah Al Mattar: Well I think the Abdali Mall project is first and foremost in a new area in Amman called Abdali, and that’s meant to be the new downtown of Amman and if you look at our project, it’s sort of the iconic project within that master development. So, we looked at everything differently, starting with the design approach, so we’ve integrated local materials like stone, but the design is very contemporary. And we’re able to sort of offer a new retail experience that we think is going to also become a very interesting public space, because the design features like the open air features, the water features, are going to be things that people are drawn to.

World Finance: You’re currently in the development stages of the Junoot eco-resort, where is it and what can people expect upon completion?

Renimah Al Mattar: The Junoot project is located in an area known as Shuwaimiya, which is currently a three hour drive from Salalah, and we’re currently exploring the number of ways that you can actually get to the site, so that actually becomes part of the experience. And the master development will include a number of components, one will be chalets that will be able to be sold to the end users, and that includes expats, so you don’t have to be a gulf national. And one of the hotel components that we’ve just announced will be operated by Aman resorts, and that will be the first Aman resort in the Gulf region. A couple of different approaches that we took in terms of the design and development approach have been to integrate construction methodologies from institutions like the Cal-Earth Institute of Earth Art and Architecture, and we’ve received considerable recognition from different groups for the design approach that these chalets have taken, and we hope to see that throughout the rest of the development approach.

“As a development company, we are always on the look out for new investments and new opportunities”

World Finance: And Mohammed, finally, what opportunities are you hoping to take advantage of in the future?

Mohammad Al Saqqaf: Well obviously as a development company, we are always on the look out for new investments and new opportunities. However, we are a MENA focussed developer, so these opportunities are, if you will, confined in that region that we concentrate on. Out of the current geographies that we’re in, we’re looking at several opportunities in the Sultanate of Oman, and Jordan. Obviously there are some other geographies that we haven’t penetrated yet, but out of what is available again in the MENA region, we feel that Saudi Arabia is a country and a region that we should be able to go into and create some solid investment returns.

World Finance: Mohammed, Renimah, thank you.

Mohammed and Renimah: You’re welcome, thank you.