|19 May, 2019

Dubai-based Majid Al Futtaim plans $4bln worth of shopping centres in Saudi- CEO

The company is opening a new cinema almost every month in Saudi, Alain Bejjani told Zawya

A Saudi man uses his phone at Riyadh Park mall during the opening of a cinema in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia April 30, 2018.

A Saudi man uses his phone at Riyadh Park mall during the opening of a cinema in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia April 30, 2018.

REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

Majid Al Futtaim, a UAE-based developer and shopping mall operator, has a multi-billion dollar portfolio worth of shopping centres in Saudi Arabia in the pipeline, its chief executive said.

“We have a very strong pipeline of shopping centres in Saudi Arabia worth about $4 billion,” Alain Bejjani, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Holding told Zawya.

Bejjani noted that the company has been present in the Saudi market for more than 12 years, adding that he’s ‘very enthusiastic’ about the opportunities in the kingdom.

“We’re very bullish about the Saudi market,” he said in a telephone call.

“We have launched our VOX Cinemas business in Saudi last year, and we’re opening a new cinema almost every month,” he said.

VOX Cinemas, a subsidiary of the Majid Al Futtaim group, opened Saudi Arabia’s first multiplex in April 2018. It also opened four more multiplexes in Jeddah and Riyadh, totaling 47 screens, and plans to have 110 screens open by the end of this year. VOX Cinemas plans to operate more than a thousand screens across the Gulf by 2023, of which 600 screens will be in the kingdom. (Read more here).

As for how the CEO views the recent reforms that have been taking place in Saudi Arabia, he said that these positive changes have happened in a very short period of time and are very encouraging when looking at the future of Saudi Arabia.

“We believe that the recent reforms that have taken place in Saudi are very welcome and successful, be it the social reforms in allowing women to drive or opening up the kingdom for more foreign investment, and the introduction of cinemas and cultural activities,” he said.

“And now looking more into turning the kingdom into an attractive touristic and cultural destination, as well as giving a longer horizon for residence in the kingdom, will have a very positive impact on the consumer sentiment…,” he added.

In the most recent reform measure announced last week, the Saudi Cabinet approved a new visa system allowing owners of capital funds and skilled expatriates unlimited or one-year visas without the need for a local sponsor, in a move set to improve foreign investments inflow into the kingdom. (Read more here).

The UAE-based developer is also on track to open three regional malls by 2021, in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, with City Centre Almaza in Egypt set to be the company's next super-regional mall to open in September in 2019. (Read more here).

As for the next upcoming project that the company will open in the UAE, Bejjani said “It’ll be City Centre Al Zahia, a shopping mall that will be launched between Dubai and Sharjah in early 2020.

“We have launched our first mall in Abu Dhabi last month, and we have other malls in the pipeline that we’ll unveil when they’re ready,” he said.

In April, Majid Al Futtaim opened ‘My City Centre Masdar’ in the UAE capital, which marks the company’s 25th shopping mall in the region, and includes the 100th Carrefour Hypermarket store in the UAE. (Read more here).

“We continue to be fully invested in the UAE economy, being in Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, and in Ras Al Khaimah where we also opened a mall earlier last year, as well as in the rest of the Emirates,” Bejjani said.

(Reporting by Nada Al Rifai; Editing by Michael Fahy)

(nada.rifai@refinitiv.com)

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© ZAWYA 2019

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