Zabeel to launch two luxury hotels

Mohammed Ali Al Hashimi (SATISH KUMAR)

Zabeel Investments will launch two luxury hotels in Abu Dhabi and Dubai by the end of this year.

Mohammed Ali Al Hashimi, executive chairman of the private investment group, said the high-end hotels would cater to the affluent and young and will be managed by US hospitality development and management company, The Light Group, 50 per cent of which was acquired by Zabeel in February.

"Under the Light Hotel philosophy, we offer boutique kinds of hotels – no more than 200 to 250 rooms. You get to experience the fine dining, good size, great facilities plus superior service," he said.

Al Hashimi said the hotels would close the gap in the hotel marketing segment.

"I don't think there is any hotel in the world today that is targeting our generation – affluent and a bit younger. Other hotels are targeting affluent people but only those my father's or uncle's age. And while some hotels are hip and trendy, their service is not that good." He declined to say how much investment would be earmarked but said Zabeel is committed to finance the whole project. "We may do this alone by ourselves or we may also bring some of our friends on board with us. But we are the ones that have given the commitment to acquire and develop these assets while Light Group will be the one to manage it."

He said he expects to launch the Light Hotels by the end of this year or early next year with a completion target of 2011. Locations are already on the table but Zabeel is still selecting among them.

Zabeel and The Light Group will also link up to manage the Harmon Hotel in Las Vegas, which MGM Mirage is building with Dubai World. Zabeel plans to help the Las Vegas-based company grow its staff base from 850 to 2,500 by the end of 2009. The company plans to invest $1 billion (Dh3.67bn) in US properties and expects to launch up to four hotels in the US, said Al Hashimi.

"We are still studying opportunities as we don't want to overpay on any of our investments," he added.

Zabeel has made several acquisitions in tandem with the private equity arm of Dubai International Capital, through a joint fund that targets large listed companies, such as EADS, the parent of Airbus, and Sony.

It has taken stakes in regional private equity leader Abraaj Capital, Emaar Properties subsidiary Emaar Industries & Investments, Asteco Property Management, Depa United Group, Arzaq Holdings, Capital Club Limited and Madaares.

The company has also partnered with Emirates Investment Group and DIFC Investments to form Empire Aviation, established a joint venture, ZSML Construction, with Turkish construction firm Sembol Construction and created wholly-owned subsidiaries Tiara Hotels and Resorts and Zed Communications. And Zabeel Investments has recently launched a wholly-owned investment subsidiary, Zabeel Capital, formed to focus on growing the company's global investment portfolio regionally and internationally.

The launch followed the establishment of Zabeel Properties, a property development firm that will manage Zabeel's $4bn portfolio of residential, commercial and hospitality developments.
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