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Business Leader of the Week: Meet Hussain Sajwani, Emirate’s richest billionaire

IFM_Emirate billionaire Hussain Sajwani

DAMAC Properties Dubai Co (DAMAC) is a real estate giant in the Gulf region. The venture focuses on the development of luxury residential villas and apartments, leisure properties, mixed-use properties, and hospitality and commercial properties in the Emirates.

In addition, the company offers interior architecture and decoration, master community planning and design, project management and design, facility and shift management, emergency preparedness, fire protection, mechanical, plumbing and electrical maintenance, financial controls and billing, and structural planning services.

DAMAC operates and manages hotel apartments in partnership with Paramount Hotels & Resorts. The company has offices in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Lebanon and the United Kingdom. DAMAC is headquartered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

In December 2013, DAMAC became the first real estate company in the Middle East to list on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) through a global depository receipt scheme. The program raised USD 379 million in the form of an IPO. DAMAC began trading in Dubai on January 12, 2015 following an offer to exchange its outstanding Global Depository Receipts (GDRs listed on the LSE) for common shares. Subsequently, the GDRs were delisted in March 2015.

As of January 2017, DAMAC Properties had awarded more than 370 contracts worth AED 3.5 billion. The contracts included construction, supplier and consulting services for the entire development portfolio. The company committed over USD 1.5 billion to its flagship Akoya project in June 2018. Moreover, the company was ranked number one on the Forbes 2017 Global 2000 list of fastest-growing global companies based on compound annual revenue growth rate from 2013 to 2016.

The brain behind this successful venture is a 70-year-old Emirati billionaire businessman Hussain Sajwani.

Who is Hussain Sajwani?

  • Hussain Sajwani was born into a conservative, middle-class family in Dubai in 1953
  • He went to attend a medical college in Baghdad after getting a government scholarship, but he did not complete the course
  • Hussain Sajwani went on to complete his undergraduate education in economics from the University of Washington
  • After completing his degree, he joined GASCO, an Abu Dhabi gas company, to serve as a contracts manager, but soon left the job and joined Abu Dhabi National Oil Company
  • In 1982, Hussain Sajwani established his own business under the name of DAMAC LLC and later it became DAMAC Group
  • In 1992, he established ZDICO Invest, an investment company and also found Al Jazeira Services Co SAOG which has a capitalization of over USD 125 million
  • In 2002, Hussain Sajwani established DAMAC Properties, one of the largest property development companies in the Middle-East
  • He resigned as the chairman of DAMAC Properties and offered to take the company private in 2021
  • Hussain Sajwani is currently ranked number 15 on ‘Hotelier Power 50’ – CEO Middle East Awards 2017 and he is in the ‘100 Most Powerful People in Global Hospitality,’ which was recognized by the ‘International Hospitality Institute’s Global 100’ in 2022
  • As of July 2022, he was ranked in the top richest Arabs with a net worth of USD 2.7 billion, according to Forbes
  • Some of the projects developed by DAMAC Properties include a golf course designed by Tiger Woods and managed by The Trump Organization, luxury apartments with interiors designed by Italian ventures Versace, Fendi, and Roberto Cavalli
  • Hussain Sajwani has also invested 600 million pounds in London through its Versace-branded ‘DAMAC Tower London’ in ‘Nine Elms’
  • In 2017, DAMAC Foundation sponsored Dubai Future Foundation’s ‘One Million Arab Coders Initiative,’ which was launched by UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, to provide free software development training to one million young Arabs
  • In February 2020, the foundation pledged AED 3 million to the Arab Hope Makers initiative’s ‘Humanitarian Cause of the Year’, centred around the construction of the ‘Magdi Yacoub Global Heart Centre’ in Egypt
  • In April 2020, the charity pledged Dh 1 million to the ‘100 million meals’ campaign, dubbed as UAE’s biggest food distribution drive, for those affected by the COVID outbreak
  • Dubai’s real estate market remains robust: Hussain Sajwani
    In a recent interview given to Oxford Business Group, Hussain Sajwani talked about the economic slowdown that impacted demand for real estate in Dubai and noted some points of development in the region.

    “Dubai’s real estate market remains robust. If you look at indicators such as rents, which are stable and not declining, the market looks healthy. In fact, demand is slightly outstripping supply. There are 10,000-12,000 units scheduled to come online annually over the coming years, whereas more like 20,000 are needed. Overall, while rents might fluctuate up or down 2%-3% according to changing economic conditions, the market is much more mature now than in the past and prices, for the most part, have stabilised. The luxury segment, for example, saw prices decline between 2015 and 2016 but have reached a healthy equilibrium since,” the billionaire businessman said.

    “Looking forward, naturally the demand for mid-tier units will remain higher than in the luxury segment because the number of people who can afford the former is much higher. That said, there will still be considerable demand for the latter if developers continue to offer high-quality products in attractive locations,” he added further.

    “Dubai is accessible to several billion people between India, China, Pakistan, the Middle East and East Africa, and a large number of the very wealthy in those places, despite being a small percentage of the population, want second houses or holiday homes in Dubai. Even in a country of 10m people, maybe 10,000 can afford an apartment here, which is a lot. Given its stability, lack of taxes on residential property and income, and relatively high yields on rents at 6%-7%, the market is a very attractive one for investors. In addition, there is no risk of the currency dropping given its peg to the dollar, and repatriation of money is very easy,” Hussain Sajwani concluded.

    Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons

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