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Dubai businessman ready to take on The World

Dubai The World Island project Wikimedia Commons/Axelspace Corp
Launched by Nakheel in 2003, The World islands are seeing renewed interest from potential buyers
  • Real estate uplift renews interest in manmade islands
  • 300-island scheme developed by Nakheel
  • Lack of amenities or infrastructure is sticking point

A Dubai businessman is in talks to try and launch a project on The World, as the emirate’s record-breaking real estate market revives interest in the manmade island development.

The World was launched in 2003 by state-owned master developer Nakheel.

Made up of 300 small manmade islands in the shape of the map of the world, it was conceived as a luxurious private development of tourist destinations and secluded homes for the ultra-wealthy.

Vinayak Mahtani, CEO of bnbme holiday homes, said he was in talks with Nakheel in 2019 to build a holiday home destination on one of the islands.

However, the discussions fell through in the wake of the pandemic.

“The conversation with Nakheel before Covid was about how they can help us generate revenue,” Mahtani said.

“Now things have changed because everyone’s trying to buy and the islands have become a sought-after asset.” 

Mahtani is now looking for investment partners to resurrect his plans.

“The islands facing or closer to [the scheme’s version of] Antarctica are better locations,” he said.

Dubai’s real estate sector is enjoying record interest. Property consultancy CBRE reported that average residential prices in June increased by 16.9 percent year on year.

Almost 58,000 deals took place in the first six months of the year, the highest level on record.

Last week the island of Turkey was put up for auction, with the price tag starting at AED78 million ($21.24 million).

A Dubai Land Department valuation certificate included with the advertisement on the Emirates Auction website values the island at AED128 million. Bidding on it was set to end on July 26 but has been extended.

Renewed interest

Andrew Love, partner and head of Middle East Capital Markets at real estate consultancy firm Knight Frank, said he is not surprised to see renewed interest in the project.

“With beachfront villas in limited supply and prices at all-time highs, you may start to see a resurgence in interest with high net worth individuals building out private homes on their own islands versus paying AED10,000 per square foot for a villa on the Palm,” he said.

Love warned that the lack of critical infrastructure and amenities has impeded the islands’ appeal to investors and developers so far.

However, Mahtani said the “empty canvas” element of the project was also one of its key attractions. 

“That’s the beauty of it – a raw island to build what you want,” he said.

Some projects have already got off the ground including a hospitality destination launched on the Lebanon island.

The Heart of Europe is also a large scheme being developed by the Kleindienst Group across six islands.

Nakheel did not respond to requests for comment.