Omran Properties to change shape of the Sharjah skyline

LONDON // A new UAE property venture plans to “transform Sharjah’s skyline” with a broad range of development projects, the first of which are set to be announced in the coming weeks.

The formation of Omran Properties – a joint venture between the Dubai-listed Emaar, the Abu Dhabi developer Eagle Hills and the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) – was announced in January.

While the venture plans to launch property developments globally, the first round of projects will centre on retail and hospitality developments in Sharjah, says Marwan Al Sarkal, the chief executive of Shurooq.

“The intention is not only to make money, the intention is to transform Sharjah’s skyline. Whatever we’re going to develop is going to be unique,” Mr Al Sarkal tells The National.

The first projects will involve shopping malls, hotels and resorts in Sharjah – with more details to be announced “in the coming weeks”, he adds.

“Our focus is not only on Sharjah City,” he says. “Omran is to develop cities in Sharjah like Khor Fakkan, Kalba, Dibba and the central region.”

The venture will also consider developments in areas such as residential property, office towers, business parks and partnerships with the education sector, Mr Sarkal says. “All of the projects will have to be financially feasible.”

Omran, which is headquartered in Sharjah, is 34 per cent owned by Shurooq, with Emaar and Eagle Hills each holding a 33 per cent stake.

Its formation comes at a time of falling property prices in Sharjah. The impact of a “bleak economic outlook” on investor sentiment is likely to keep the market subdued this year, Asteco said in February. Sharjah property sales prices and rental rates fell by 2 per cent each last year, the property consultancy said.

Sharjah’s property market has not opened up to foreign investors in the way neighbouring Dubai’s has.

Non-Arab nationals are not permitted to buy freehold properties, but can buy on a 100-year leasehold basis under new regulations introduced in 2014. But sales have been subdued, Asteco said, partly because of the wave of more affordable properties launching in Dubai.

Omran Properties is not initially planning any leasehold residential properties open to foreign investors, Mr Al Sarkal says.

He says Sharjah does not want to attract “speculators and flippers” into the property market, which would act to inflate property prices and potentially force existing residents to move. “We are not keen to open Sharjah’s real estate market because it’s going to mainly affect the people that are living in Sharjah.”

But Shurooq welcomes partnerships with foreign developers, Mr Al Sarkal adds.

“The real estate market Sharjah has not opened very much to foreign developers. But foreign developers are welcomed by Shurooq to venture with Shurooq.”

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