Skip to content Skip to Search
Skip navigation

Dubai real estate trust eyes Saudi after $400m refinancing

Dubai-based Emirates REIT is the world’s largest Shari'a compliant Real Estate Investment Trust
  • Dubai-based REIT keen to launch investment trusts in Saudi and Africa
  • $400 million sukuk due to conclude refinancing this year

Equitativa, the manager of Emirates REIT real estate investment trust, is looking to expand beyond Dubai once it concludes the refinancing of its $400 million sukuk within the next two months.

The firm is also keen to launch new real estate trusts outside the UAE, in Saudi Arabia and Africa.

Founded in 2010, the Emirates REIT became the first real estate investment trust (REIT) in the Middle East.

The largest listed Shariah-compliant REIT in the UAE, it was backed by early seed funding from investors such as Dubai Islamic Bank, Tecom and Dubai Properties, and listed on Nasdaq Dubai in April 2014.

Equitativa announced last month that Emirates REIT’s profits rose 20.9 percent year-on-year to $61.5m.

The value of its assets under management grew 4.7 percent year-on-year to $758.6m over the six months, consisting of 2.4 million square feet of space across 11 properties.

“If I look at Emirates REIT today, 100 percent of our assets are Dubai. But, as the name would suggest, our limit would be the Emirates,” Thierry Leleu, chief executive officer of Equitativa, told AGBI.

“Yes, as we position the REIT for growth, as soon as the refinancing is complete, I think that we will certainly look at opportunities in other areas [of the UAE].”

Emirates REIT raised $400m through a sukuk in December 2017, and this is due to mature in December this year.

A restructuring of the sukuk was proposed last year, but this was cancelled, as Equitativa confirmed that only 57 percent of debtholders had voted in favour of the deal, short of the 75 percent required for it to proceed.

Leleu told AGBI the sukuk was “at the forefront” of his priorities and he was confident it’s refinancing would be completed in the coming months.

“To refinance the market is obviously not the best one today, with the interest rate hikes, with the extreme volatility that you see. But, nonetheless our partners, lending partners and also the current sukuk holders, we’re having very constructive conversations to finalise this over the next six to eight weeks.”

Clothing, Apparel, Tie
Thierry Leleu, CEO of Equitativa, which manages Emirates REIT. Source: Equitativa

Equitativa also manages the UAE’s first Shariah-compliant Residential REIT, which is incorporated in the Abu Dhabi Global Market and has a portfolio valued at around AED 1.2 billion ($330m) across 1,069 villas and apartments in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah.

Once the $400m sukuk plans have been completed, Leleu said Equitativa would also start looking at opportunities outside the UAE, as he believed there was a lack of independent institutional players in the region.

“If you look at Europe, there are plenty of institutional players. If you look at the independent institutional players in the GCC, there’s not that many. We’re the leading independent investment managers in real estate,” he said.

“Saudi is 38 million people, a booming economy, reforms, so obviously it is of interest. 

“But, beyond that, you could look at the entire African continent, which is completely under institutionalised from a real estate example, and Africa over the next 50 years would be the booming continent.”

His views echo those of a senior executive at the Swiss global wealth manager UBS, who told AGBI in July that investments in the Middle East by ultra-high-net-worth family offices will increase by at least 50 percent over the next decade.

Family offices, or privately held companies that handle investment management and wealth management for a family, seek to effectively grow and transfer wealth across generations.

The latest UBS Global Family Office Report 2022 surveyed 221 family offices around the world, which collectively oversee wealth of $493bn and have average assets under management of $2.2bn.

The study found the Middle East accounts for just four percent of family offices’ global asset allocations due to a lack of opportunities, according to Josef Stadler, executive vice chairman of UBS Global Wealth Management, who manages some of the bank’s wealthiest clients.

“There are limited opportunities to invest locally and domestically simply because the liquidity in the domestic market is not there,” Stadler said.

“The amount of money chasing domestic asset opportunities exceeds the supply. So if you’re a big investor you naturally have to find alternative places to invest your money.”

With Qatar investing billions in the World Cup, Saudi Arabia unveiling a roll call of mega projects as part of its Vision 2030 to diversify its economy, and the UAE continuing to make it easier for foreign investors to enter the market, Stadler believes the Middle Eastern demand and supply dynamic is changing.

“I think that four percent [of global allocation] will go up and it’ll take about 10 years to get there,” he predicted.

Latest articles


Dubai launches one-stop hub to streamline government services

People in Dubai can now obtain an Emirates ID, register a company, open a bank account and more under one roof following the opening of the Emirates Government Services Hub (EGSH). Owned by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Maktoum Bin Juma Al Maktoum, a member of the Dubai Royal family, EGSH allows clients to access all essential […]

In association with
Thailand's consul general Kitinai Nutakul visits the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jeddah

Thailand opens investment office in Saudi Arabia

Thailand’s Board of Investment (BOI) is opening its first Middle East office in Saudi Arabia, signaling a deepening of economic ties between the nations after a longstanding diplomatic spat. The office will focus on attracting Saudi investment into Thailand’s targeted industries and supporting Thai entrepreneurs looking to invest in the region, the BOI said in […]

hajj saudi arabia

Saudia reports big rise in international passengers

Saudi Arabia’s national carrier Saudia reported a 24 percent increase in international passengers to 9.1 million in the first half of 2024. There was also a 13 percent rise in the number of flights. The Hajj pilgrimage in June played a large part in the growth.  The number of passengers flying on domestic routes rose […]

renewables target dam

World is off track to meet Cop28 renewables goal

The world is far from reaching its 2030 renewables target, the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) said on Thursday. Countries committed at the Cop28 summit in Dubai last year to treble renewables capacity in order to limit global warming to 1.5C. To stay on course global capacity growth needs to accelerate to a minimum rate […]