United Development Company: Building the future for Qatar
Over the past couple of decades the Qatari landscape has undergone significant transformation, with construction projects showing no signs of slowing down.
United Development Company (UDC) has been involved in much of that journey and today stands as a leading Qatari public shareholding company with a mission to identify and invest in long-term projects contributing to Qatar’s growth and providing good shareholder value.
The company was formed in 1999 and just four years later went on to be listed on the Qatar Exchange. According to the company website, UDC has an authorized share capital of QR 3.54 billion and total assets of QR 18.72 billion at 31 December 2016.
UDC operates a number of companies which includes: Hospitality Development Company, Ronautica Middle East and Madinainova amongst others.
Its current portfolio includes: real estate development, property management, infrastructure and utilities, energy-intensive industries, hydrocarbon downstream manufacturing, maritime related businesses, and hospitality.
Such projects of course go hand-in-hand with Qatar’s development of infrastructure, crucial to helping the state develop sustainable lines of economic development. The company acknowledges as much when it says online:
“From day one, the company has played an active role in the development of Qatar, rapidly evolving into a leading Qatari Shareholding Company and has successfully established several new companies and investment vehicles.”
UDC is perhaps best known for its landmark project, The Pearl-Qatar, an urban mixed-use, man-made island development.
Located some 350 metres offshore of Doha’s prestigious West Bay District, The Pearl-Qatar is one of the largest real estate developments in the Gulf.
Work got underway on this complex project in April 2004, which is designed and engineered to be an everlasting icon in Qatar.
The UDC website outlines the concept for The Pearl-Qatar:
“The Pearl-Qatar is UDC’s jewel in the crown. Home to a number of enchanting precincts, The Pearl offers luxurious living to a multitude of refined tastes. A self-sustaining real estate development that includes all the amenities and lifestyle privileges any resident or guest could ask for. Distributed across architecturally distinct precincts, The Pearl offers apartments, villas, townhouses, diverse leisure and entertainment facilities, award-winning marinas and beautiful serene beaches.
“Add to that a selection of renowned restaurants and high-end shopping outlets, such as world-class luxury fashion brands Hermes, Giorgio Armani, Chloe, Roberto Cavalli, and Elie Saab, amongst culinary offerings from around the world, like British favorite Harry Ramsden, upmarket sandwich concept Which Wich, seafood delight Sammach, American diner Black Rock Grill and Dip’n’Dip – to name a few. The Pearl-Qatar is truly a masterpiece of private and modern living, where life takes on a beautiful angle no matter where you set your eyes.”
The company has produced a brochure for The Pearl-Qatar, outlining a 70 per cent retail occupancy rate across 115,000 square metres of leased retail space, encompassing 750 retail outlets.
There are 14,000 residential units on the site and UDC cites a 69 per cent residential occupancy (some 8,200).
“Pearl-Qatar is regarded as unique, as there is no other development like it in the region, and UDC executed the most massive and ambitious project with upscale worldwide standards in a relatively short period of time, Roger Dagher, Director of Corporate Communications, told Industry-ME Magazine in 2014.
“Groundbreaking techniques saw an island created from the sea. And in the period since, work has continued at a remarkable pace to transform this land into the architectural marvel it is today and one of the most luxurious developments in the region,” he continued.
Another significant project in the UDC portfolio is Porto Arabia Retail and Owned Towers, a project started in March 2006 and completed four years later.
According to the UDC website: “Porto Arabia represents a modern Mediterranean dwelling in the heart of Arabia with an open air retail design. Catering to fashion as well as food & beverage, the colourful waterfront of Porto Arabia – known as La Croisette, is a lively 2.5 kilometre pedestrianized concourse lined with numerous globally recognized upscale retail stores and dining outlets. As the thriving cosmopolitan heart of the Pearl-Qatar, Porto Arabia captures the sophisticated essence of the Riviera, combining elegant towers and townhouses in a spectacular location.
“Conducive to the highest standards of living, various studios, 1 to 4 bedroom apartments and townhouses are offered with unit sizes ranging from 88 square metres to 900 square metres. Porto Arabia is reminiscent of a continental harbour, yet positively alive with Arabian warmth and charm.”
Work got underway in December 2007 on the Viva Bahriya precinct, a collection of beachfront condominiums.
“Architecturally themed to echo the very best of the Maghreb – with Moroccan-styled townhouses and apartments, Viva Bahriya is lapped by a warm, inviting sea and its own stretch of pristine beach, it is a haven for water sports enthusiasts. Offering tenants a vast range of options for a “greener” lifestyle, Viva Bahriya is strategically located within a lush and reserved neighbourhood of the Pearl-Qatar,” states the corporate webnsite.
“Various studios and 1 to 3 bedroom apartments and luxury penthouses are located in elegant tower residences. Townhouses and low rise blocks offer innovative design and features with Marina and beach views,” it continues.
This project reached its completion in February 2010.
The Qanat Quartier project began in March 2006 and took just over six years to complete, delivering a luxurious lifestyle and retail concept.
“With its colourful Venetian character, Qanat Quartier is carefully planned around intricate canals and pedestrian-friendly squares and plazas. Each waterway is spanned by stylish bridges which further evoke the soul of Italian romantic living,” the website describes.
Situated between Porto Arabia and Viva Bahriya, the Medina Centrale is a single, mixed-use property development which comprises of residential apartments, retail space and leisure.
The project started in July 2007 and was completed six years later, creating a variety of retail facilities in open-air promenades as well as indoor shopping facilities, parks, plazas, water features and centralized gathering place in the district’s Central Piazza, well suited to host public activities and community events.
Standing as the tallest architecture on the Pearl Island, the Pearl AQ-01 and AQ-02 towers are identical structures situated at the entrance of The Pearl-Qatar and developed primarily to accommodate high quality commercial office space, making it the location of choice for many discerning businesses.
The Pearl Towers’ design is fundamentally a modern-day interpretation of time-honoured styles and themes, and each 42-storey tower offers amenities designed to provide the best possible working environment within first class facilities.
Standing at approximately 201 meters each on opposite sides, the two beacon-like office towers flank the main access road of the Pearl-Qatar, and serve as a defining feature to the whole Pearl development.
In February 2017, UDC’s Chairman, H.E Mr. Turki bin Mohammed Al-Khater, praised new initiatives announced by Prime Minister and Interior Minister H.E Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, aimed at boosting private sector investment and economic growth.
Commenting on the proposed measures, Al-Khater said: “The strategic decisions that have been made by the government exempting The Pearl-Qatar from the procedures of issuing licenses, will inevitably support with bringing development works at The Pearl up to speed, while reassuring large contractors and developers of the Island’s investment qualities, and stimulating efficient and timely completion of construction works through increasing the proportion of local investments in The Pearl during the next phase.”
Al-Khater pointed out that the new measures will also positively contribute to attracting foreign investment into the State of Qatar, and will lead to accelerating project delivery and improving project quality by contractors and developers operating on The Pearl.
For his part, UDC CEO & President Mr. Ibrahim Jassim Al-Othman, stated that the exemption and licensing privileges extended to the management of The Pearl-Qatar, to issue construction, completion of construction, electricity and civil defence permits for real estate developers, indicates the great importance attached by the government to the pivotal role of the private sector in economic growth and sustainable development.
The Prime Minister had earlier announced that The Pearl-Qatar and Lusail projects would be exempted from the procedures of issuing licenses and that their managements will be provided with the authority to grant special licenses in the fields of construction, completion of construction, electricity and civil defense for real estate developers.
In this context, the Ministry of Municipality and Environment along with the Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation (Kahramaa), Civil Defence and other relevant agencies – have been directed to finalize an agreement with the managements of the two projects whereby The Pearl-Qatar and Lusail will assume full responsibility before the State in case of a breach – by the developing companies – of the standards and conditions stipulated in the agreement and the approved urban plan.
In April United Development Company announced its quarterly financial results for the first quarter of 2017. The Company’s net profit amounted to QR 244 million, while the net profit attributable to equity shareholders stood at QR 231 million, and the basic earnings per share stood at QR 0.65
In a press release, the company stated: “The first quarter marked a special start of the year for the Company as it smoothly transitioned from 2016 and accelerated the development of various residential and commercial areas by allocating the necessary resources for promising leading projects in real estate and infrastructure development, hospitality, property management and others.
“The first quarter of 2017 also saw an increase in revenues of 68 per cent compared to the same period of last year. This reiterates the Company’s capacity to provide source of income with good returns despite the current instability in the real-estate market.”
“During the first quarter, the Company witnessed a steady increase in the retail leasing percentage in The Pearl-Qatar. As such, the volume of leased retail properties during Q1 2017 increased by 22 per cent compared to the first quarter last year, in addition to the sales volume of residential units of 25 per cent on a year-by-year basis. This progressive trend is expected to continue as the island prepares to welcome a wider selection of retail shops on The Pearl-Qatar demonstrating UDC’s ability to increase revenues and maintain operational stability.
“UDC’s achievements in the first quarter of 2017, include a great deal as the Company sold at a record time of 5 days, the first phase of residential units at Al Mutahidah Towers in Viva Bahriya. The Company also announced availability of The Pearl Tower 1 for leasing, which provides state-of-the-art office space and the latest commercial project on The Pearl-Qatar.
“On the retail front, The Pearl-Qatar inaugurated 20 new shops in Porto Arabia, Medina Centrale and Qanat Quartier. The shops feature a variety of brands targeting a wide segment of the Island’s population and visitors and represent a great addition to The Pearl-Qatar’s list of attractions for visitors, tourists and residents alike.”
UDC’s role in the future of Qatar remains an important one, as the state continues to build its future plans.