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EXPO 2020 Head HE Reem Al Hashimy and HE Sultan Butti Bin Mejren, Director General, Dubai Land Department, among major MENA names recognised by industry professionals. Leaders from regional developers and research firms also make their top 20 debut

The second edition of the Cityscape Intelligence Real Estate Power List has been revealed today (11.11.21), recognising 20 of the regional tourism, real estate, and governmental figure heads who have been pushing sustainability to the top of their agenda, and each demonstrated leadership, forward thinking and innovation over the past 12 months.

As many industries are still finding their way out of the pandemic, tourism, real estate, travel and logistics are all bouncing back and have found a resurgence due to high vaccination rates, events such as the Expo 2020, and groundbreaking government reforms and public-private partnerships that have helped markets and industries weather the storm.

Sustainability is one of the key themes for the 2021 list. As climate change is becoming harder and harder to ignore some of the regional developers are embracing this change and are taking it one step further with their developments more focused towards regeneration.

John Pagano, CEO of the Red Sea Development Company, and a 2021 Power List nominee, is pioneering this approach. As the world's most ambitious regenerative tourism project, the Red Sea Project is a luxury destination created around one of the world's hidden natural treasures. The project will set new standards in sustainable development, pioneering a new relationship between luxury tourism and the natural environment and with Pagano at the helm, has pledged to contribute a 30 percent net conservation benefit to the project area by 2040.

Another leading sustainability project causing waves across the globe is Saudi Arabia’s NEOM. The mega project’s CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr, a key mention from the power list, has made it his mission to create a ‘city of the future’ with the city priding itself on its aim to run completely off renewable energy. NEOM plays a vital role in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 agenda and is set to become a benchmark for sustainable construction and future city planning.

There is no bigger event in the world right now than Expo 2020. One of the standout names on this 2021 list is Reem Al Hashimy, Managing Director of Expo 2020, responsible for leading the charge in organising the mega event dubbed the biggest show on earth, which formally opened its doors to the world on October 1st. Al Hashimy was instrumental in Dubai’s winning bid to host Expo 2020, and as well as being Director General for the Expo 2020, she is also the UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation, a position she has held since 2016.

Since the announcement of Expo 2020, there has been an increase of residential and commercial development at the site. New shopping centres, hotels and over 400 restaurants as well as luxury housing and cycling paths, will be completed prior to the highly anticipated event.

Ian Albert, CEO Colliers – MENA discussed at this week’s Cityscape Summit the staggering increase in real estate investment and how, as an asset class, rental collection rates make it a chief focus for institutional investors and funds.

According to Albert, the increase in residential investment is due to it being a good cash business: “Rental collection rates of various investment funds in 2021 was sitting at 95-97%. Industrial and logistics remain quite high at 85-87%, and office space is around 70-75% rent collected. So, if you look at it from a cash-on-cash business, it wins. The UAE market total available for foreign investment is somewhere around US$350-450 billion worth of assets out there now that foreign investors can buy now in this market. If you look at returns in Dubai, capital growth is sitting at about 30%, with yields at around 5%, therefore clearly outperforming some of the key markets in Europe.”

Despite the recent challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic the ‘UAE & MENA Real Estate Report’, which was produced by Informa Markets in 2021 found that 74 per cent of respondents are anticipating a recovery for the MENA region’s real estate industry within one to two years since 2020. A key proponent of this growth is regional mega-events such as Expo 2020.

Speaking ahead of the Expo 2020 opening in October, Al Hashimy said; “This period of rapid, unprecedented change has brought with it a pressing need to rethink the way we exist and is further accelerated by a global health crisis that has touched each and every individual on Earth. While 2020 may be remembered as a year that changed us forever, it has also given us a tremendous opportunity to come together as a global society and find answers to our most pressing challenges.”

Another key figure on the list for 2021 is HE Sultan Butti Bin Mejren, Director General, Dubai Land Department (DLD). Leading the charge at the DLD since 2006, Bin Mejren has overseen the implementation of a number of property laws in order to protect the interests of the UAE and reinforce confidence in the real estate market to investors.

Not only has Bin Mejren spearheaded the departments ambitious digital offering, including the Dubai REST app developed by DLD to be the first digital platform for real estate in the region, he also led DLD to achieve their 100 percent "Paperless Stamp" from Digital Dubai, which seeks to achieve several strategic goals, most notably the consolidation of Dubai's efforts towards its smart and digital transformation. The DLD recorded 51,414 real estate transactions worth over USD $47.6bn in 2020.

Other prominent real estate leaders include; Abdullah Ali Obaid Al Hamli, Chairman, Deyaar; Ahmed Alkhoshaibi, Chief Executive Officer of Arada, and the Group Chief Executive Officer of KBW Investments; Naaman Atallah, Chief Executive Officer, Nakheel and Hussain Sajwani, Founder and Chairman, DAMAC.

The list has been curated by Cityscape Intelligence, the region’s premier real estate market analysis portal, with the final 20 names selected on nominations by industry professionals and data collected by Cityscape Intelligence.

Chris Speller, Group Director, Informa Markets, said: “This is our second edition of the Cityscape Intelligence Real Estate Power List, and once again we have seen a remarkable response from the industry to help us identify who made a difference in the past 12 months. If we look at where we are now compared to a year ago, Expo 2020 is in full swing, travel is slowly returning to positive levels and the real estate market, not just Dubai is seeing an incredible resurgence across some asset classes and markets. The 2021 Real Estate Power list nominees have all helped shape this growth in one way or another, and we are proud to be able to do our part in recognising them.”

Regional representation included; John Pagano, CEO, The Red Sea Development Company; Khaled Abbas, Deputy Minister, Housing, Utilities, and Urban Communities for National Projects, Egypt and Nadhmi Al-Nasr, CEO, NEOM.  

Strong industry response for nominations led the Cityscape Intelligence team to include some of the region’s leading real estate consultancies. Making the top 20 this year are Ian Albert, CEO, MENA, Colliers; Thierry Delvaux, CEO, MEA, JLL and Youcef Betraoui, Chief Executive

2021 Cityscape Intelligence Real Estate Power List*:

  • Abdullah Ali Obaid Al Hamli, Chairman, Deyaar
  • Ahmed Alkhoshaibi, Chief Executive Officer of Arada, and the Group Chief Executive Officer of KBW Investments
  • HE Falah Al Ahbabi, Chairman, Department of Municipalities and Transport (DMT), Abu Dhabi
  • Hussain Sajwani, Founder and Chairman, DAMAC
  • Ian Albert, CEO, MENA Colliers
  • John Pagano, CEO, The Red Sea Development Company
  • Kerem Cengiz, Managing Director, LWK+PARTNERS
  • Khaled Abbas, Deputy Minister, Housing, Utilities, and Urban Communities for National Projects, Egypt
  • Khalid Al Malik, CEO, Dubai Properties & MD, Dubai Holding
  • Khalifa Al Zaffin, Executive Chairman, Dubai Aviation City Corporation (DACC) & Dubai South
  • HE Marwan Bin Jassim Al Sarkal, Executive Chairman, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority
  • HE Mattar Al Tayer, Director General, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) & Commissioner General for Infrastructure, Urban Planning and Well-Being
  • Naaman Atallah, Chief Executive Officer, Nakheel
  • Nadhmi Al-Nasr, CEO, NEOM
  • Rahail Aslam, Founder and Group Chief Executive Officer, Select Group
  • HE Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General, Expo 2020 Dubai
  • HE Sultan Butti Bin Mejren, Director General, Dubai Land Department
  • Talal Al Dhiyebi, CEO, Aldar Properties
  • Thierry Delvaux, CEO, MEA, JLL
  • Youcef Betraoui, Chief Executive Officer, Land Sterling

*This list is in no particular order and has been put together based on nominations and data collected by Cityscape Intelligence

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