Saudi Arabia Review

Faisal Faqeeh ... targeting growth

Faisal Faqeeh ... targeting growth

Bin Faqeeh is challenging the status quo in real estate

Layan demonstrates the lengths to which real estate developers will go to attract investors, including Saudi-based oil executives looking for the perfect pad for rest and relaxation, a steady rental income or as an excellent long-term investment

Bin Faqeeh Real Estate Investment Company has launched its latest residential project in Bahrain. The 17,000 square metre Layan development will, according to the company, be eye catching in design and unique in concept, with its own water park and the GCC’s largest swimming pool into which water slides will tumble directly from some apartments. The water features will be the focal point of a large entertainment hub including surfing simulators, and an in-pool movie theatre.

More than anything, Layan demonstrates the lengths to which real estate developers will now go to attract investors, including Saudi-based oil executives looking for the perfect pad for rest and relaxation, a steady rental income at good yield or as an excellent long-term investment.

For Bin Faqeeh, which has emerged as one of Bahrain’s most prolific developers Layan will, it hopes, be another step in its objective of "challenging the status quo" of local real estate.

"To be different you have to start thinking of slightly crazy ideas," Faisal Faqeeh, Bin Faqeeh’s chairman, admits in reference to the $79.5 million project, construction on which will soon start at the site at Durrat Marina, on Bahrain’s southern coast.

"It will have a resort feel, even though it is a freehold project. It’s in a prime location with beautiful views of the marina. It’s exciting," he adds.

The Layan launch follows last September’s market debut of Waterbay, a prestigious upscale development in Manama which Faqeeh describes as a "dream project" for the company. Within months of unveiling Waterbay, piling work started on the site at Bahrain Bay, the $2 billion mixed-use scheme in the country’s capital which also features the upmarket retail project The Avenues, currently under construction nearby.

"Waterbay is a very modern design with very high-end specifications which will add value for Bahrain Bay," says Faqeeh. Waterbay will comprise about 600 apartments with prices ranging from BD55,000 ($146,000) to BD650,000. According to the chairman, the market response has been "excellent", with some 70 per cent of units already committed and the first of three project phases should, he adds, be ready within 24 months.

As high-end projects, both Layan and Waterbay indicate that Bin Faqeeh is entering a golden age in its eight-year history, during which time it has successfully negotiated market downturns to help shape Bahrain’s real estate landscape. In fact the chairman, originally a land trader, recognised the opportunity in real estate as far back as 2000, when the market first opened up as banks started to offer project finance and regulations governing the sector were introduced.

An artist’s impression of one of Bin Faqeeh’s top projects

"Our first project was to be a high-end office building, but the financial crisis and regional real estate downturn happened within six months of the company being formed," Faqeeh recalls. "We never believed that the market could freeze as it did in 2008 but we stopped the project because it was unsuitable for the market at the time."

There followed a period of reflection and intense market study for Bin Faqeeh, and a recalibration of its strategic focus followed.

"We couldn’t afford to gamble on a ‘build it and they will come’ model," says Faqeeh. It became apparent to the company by 2010 that the market was most healthy in the $120,000 to $150,000 price range, and embarked on its first residential project, La Vida Tower with that in mind.

"We then came up with The One, which was a tower of studio apartments priced at $75,000, in 2011. It sold out in 48 hours," Faqeeh explains.

A series of successful low- to mid-range projects have since been launched. In 2012, Bin Faqeeh embarked on Dar al Salam, a six-building scheme on Reef Island where units were initially sold at breakeven prices before the company began to build in small margins and attracting GCC investors to the gated community. Other projects in the company’s portfolio include 360, which is nearing completion at Durrat Marina, as well as several residential projects in Manama.

"The Reef Island project is an example of the opportunities for developers and investors even during challenging markets. People who bought there have seen [profit] margins of up to 300 per cent," says Faqeeh.

Having established a strong portfolio without unduly exposing itself to market fluctuations, Bin Faqeeh can look ahead confidently. The chairman says the trust and good name that the company enjoys in the market are critical to its long-term proposition.

"We have a track record of doing what we say we will. We deliver on time, and in mid-February 2016 we handed over The Homes, a villas project, six months ahead of schedule. We’re competitively priced according to market need. Our projects are unique, and of high standard. And investors want to be sure that their money is not being diverted from the project they are committing to. These are the ways to establish trust and provide the levels of comfort that an investor needs."

Faqeeh says his company remains "hungry" for success, but insists success won’t be achieved with profit at the expense of satisfaction of a job well done.

"We really enjoy what we’re doing, and I think that reflects in the quality and style of the projects we develop. Every time we want to do a better project than the last time."

That mantra will be put fully to the test over the next few years, not only as it makes progress on the flagship Waterbay and Layan projects but also as it brings other developments onto the drawing board.

Central to its medium-term plan is Limited 5, a highly ambitious programme whereby one new project will be launched every year over the next five years. Waterbay was the first last year, with Layan the 2016 signature and announcements of new schemes going forward should ensure the next few years will be an exciting ride for Bin Faqeeh. Such a relentless schedule may offer little room for further reflection but will no doubt cement the company’s reputation as Bahrain’s undisputed real estate development leader, and as the preferred real estate investment choice for Saudi-based oil executives in the kingdom.

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