Nakheel is set to embark on a major expansion of its retail operations, doubling the size of both Ibn Battuta Mall and Dragon Mart.
The company will join a host of developers investing billions of dirhams in malls, hotels and entertainment.
In addition, the developer behind Dubai’s palm-shaped islands is confident banks will lend Dh300 million (US$81.67 million) to build a shopping, restaurant and marina complex called The Pointe, on the tip of the Palm Jumeirah.
Adnan Hegrat, the managing director for malls and retail at Nakheel, said the developer had hired a consultant to examine doubling Ibn Battuta Mall from its current size of 325,160 square metres.
“We are working on a design for Ibn Battuta and we will link the metro,” he said. “Retail is the type of industry that never dies. Retail is a mix between entertainment and a necessity. A project that combines both never fails.”
Mr Hegrat declined to specify the level of investment required to double the size of what is already one of Dubai’s biggest malls. Ibn Battuta Mall is the largest themed mall in the world, with about 111,500 square metres of leasable retail space and more than 265 stores. The extension is expected to include a mix of retail, entertainment and hotels, Mr Hegrat added.
Developers throughout the country are now turning their attention away from the subdued property market to the retail sector, which is experiencing strong growth in sales on the back of record tourist numbers to the UAE.
Emaar Properties, the region’s biggest developer, said last month that it planned to increase Dubai Mall by 92,900 square metres on top of its current size of 1.11 million square metres,
Al Ghurair Group is in the middle of a Dh2bn expansion of Al Ghurair Centre and is adding 25 per cent more space to BurJuman Mall.
Both Emaar Properties and Majid Al Futtaim, the owner of Mall of the Emirates, reported stellar profit performances in the second half of last year as income from stores grew.
Nakheel also announced last year it would double the size of Dragon Mart, the huge Chinese shopping and trading centre on the outskirts of Dubai, adding about 158,000 square metres of retail space and 5,000 parking spaces.
Mr Hegrat said an average of 52,000 people visited Dragon Mart each day and that the new expansion was already more than 80 per cent leased. Dragon Mart yesterday opened a new 8,734 square metre department store called Sun Tours.
Mr Hegrat said the Dh300m required to build The Pointe, which is expected to be completed at the end of next year, was not going to be difficult to raise from banks.
“We have no problem with the money,” he said.
“We have so many people to finance. Nobody is going to argue with success.”
Mr Hegrat said The Pointe would include 75 retail stores and 125 food and beverage outlets and that Nakheel had already had 360 requests from retailers to lease stores.
Nakheel is also expected to begin work on the much-anticipated Palm Mall this year, which will offer about 80,000 square metres of leasable retail space.
The developer has been rebuilding its business over the past two years after a downturn in Dubai’s property market caused the value of its projects to fall considerably.
After the completion of a debt restructuring in August, Nakheel is now owned by the Dubai Financial Support Fund, which was set up to distribute $20 billion of investment from Abu Dhabi and the Central Bank.
Retail space has increased 60 per cent in Dubai since 2005, according to Jones Lang LaSalle, a property consultant.
The emirate is generally deemed to be saturated in terms of retail, with the per-capita mall space almost double the level of that in Abu Dhabi, which has the second-highest rate in the Middle East.