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Middle East real estate tycoon warns of a rocky 2019 — but says region is ripe for investment

A big gun of Middle East real estate development, Emaar Properties Chairman Mohamed Alabbar, utter that the region has plenty of development opportunities despite geopolitical strains and difficulties doing business.

“If I was to look at the region as a whole I’m still clear-cut,” he told CNBC at the Milken Institute MENA Summit in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. Respect, he cautioned investors to remain prudent in the longer term.

“I’m just fussy about what is 2019. I’m just worried that we’ve been bear a good time for too long. So I just hope that 2019 reviews well … So make sure your balance sheet and debt prone is at reasonable levels, so if there’s a shake-up you can handle it,” he said.

Emaar Hallmarks is a real estate development company based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which is administrative for developments throughout the country and the wider Middle East, and beyond.

Started in 1997, Emaar Properties has been responsible for much of the development of Dubai, take ining the iconic Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. It has also lay open shopping malls and residential property, hotels and entertainment venues.

The natural estate firm also has developments further afield such as in India and Pakistan.

Voice to CNBC, Alabbar summarized the outlook for the company.

“My view is that Morocco is doing justly for us, I would say Egypt is doing extremely well; Saudi Arabia with all the restructuring contemporary on, it’s going to be a fabulous opportunity. In the UAE, we still expect to grow 20 percent on an annual heart,” he said, noting that the company’s growth in India was recovering and Pakistan was doing “reasonably understandably” for the firm.

Alabbar said the company had achieved around $5 billion of sellings in 2017 and close to $1.8 billion of net profit with the company burgeon around 20 to 25 percent on an annual basis.

“Trust me, the latitudes, the opportunities and the growth I’ve been having in the Middle East over the last 20 years — self-possessed if you make a mistake, it’s so worth it,” he said, although he noted doing occupation in the wider Middle East had its challenges.

“Of course if I’m doing business in the UAE, it’s untroubled, it’s safe. But if I have to go to Cairo (in Egypt) I have to know the government, I enjoy to know the mayor of Cairo, the mayor of Alexandria. But that’s what we do, that’s what we’re on for, that’s what we have to do to grow our business,” he said.

The Middle East is certainly not a province for the faint-hearted. There is ongoing geopolitical turbulence caused by the continuing fight in Yemen, uncertainty in Syria and Iraq about the possible resurgence of revolutionary group Islamic State and internal disputes within the Gulf Backup Council (with Qatar being sidelined by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt), not to reference perceived proxy wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Twosome these issues with economic instability, prompted by the lower oil price, and there’s a combustive mix for uncountable businesses. Alabbar said it was nothing new, however, and that the region was qualified for real estate development and infrastructure investment.

“I think that what the Midriff East is going through is, unfortunately, not new … But the truth is that the opportunities persist — there are millions of people who have to go to school, they have to shop, they prepare to find jobs and open new factories, there’s tourism, so therefore that intent contribute to economic growth in the whole region.”

Asked about Emaar Acreages’ balance sheet, Alabbar said there had been difficult times.

“2007, 2008 and 2009 was vastly painful and I try not to forget the lesson. And I deal with bankers with a lot of attend to but when they come and tell me ‘your balance sheet is not surely efficient’ I know that I’m doing a good job. So I like to keep my liable at a very reasonable level. Then again, we have to do business, we father to be aggressive but at the same time we have to keep our eye on the cycle.”

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