REITs reshaping the UAE real estate landscape

As 2023 unfolded amidst global uncertainty, geopolitical tensions, and economic challenges, the UAE emerged as a beacon of stability and growth, with a projected economic expansion of 3.4% in 2023 and 4% in 2024, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The UAE government’s commitment to economic diversification away from oil dependency has been a driving force behind the country’s robust performance. Real estate projects, along with sectors like hotels, industrial, logistics, and manufacturing, play a pivotal role in this diversification initiative.

Adela Mues, Partner at Reed Smith, highlights that such diversification “may lead to new opportunities for REITs or real estate investment trusts.”

Earlier this year, CBRE painted a positive outlook for the UAE’s real estate sector, fueled by elevated oil prices and resilient economic growth. Notably, Abu Dhabi saw a staggering 94.1% YoY increase in total transactions in H1 2023, driven by a 160.4% surge in off-plan transactions. Dubai, on the other hand, boasted a 43.3% YoY jump in transaction volumes.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are experiencing a surge in wealthy international investors, attracted by a series of reforms aimed at making the UAE an enticing destination for global companies, investors, and skilled professionals.

S&P Global projected that Dubai developers would deliver 30,000 homes in 2023, a substantial increase compared to historical levels.

Amidst this real estate boom, REITs have emerged as a strategic investment vehicle, allowing investors to capitalise on the UAE’s flourishing real estate market without significant upfront commitments. Adela Mues notes, “The UAE’s real estate sector benefits from strong government support and strategic initiatives aimed at diversification and development. This can create favourable conditions for REITs, particularly in certain growing sectors such as commercial, residential, and retail spaces.”

The growth of UAE REITs aligns with a broader trend worldwide. Arun Leslie John, Chief Market Analyst at Century Financial, emphasised that REITs offer a unique blend of real estate, equity, and fixed-income market attributes. These instruments provide exposure to property value appreciation, consistent rental income, liquidity akin to equity investments, and income stability similar to fixed-income securities.

Since the establishment of legal and regulatory frameworks in 2016, UAE REITs have demonstrated resilience amid global economic challenges. They have evolved to accommodate regional dynamics, with a growing emphasis on sustainable and socially responsible real estate projects.

The role of REITs in fueling the UAE’s real estate and construction sector growth cannot be understated. Investors looking to diversify their portfolios are drawn to the ease of managing properties without physical ownership, making REITs a catalyst for portfolio growth.

The GCC REIT market, having experienced exponential growth since 2014, is reshaping the investment landscape. Emirates REIT, listed on the Nasdaq Dubai, reported significant profits, showcasing the potential of Shari’ah-compliant REITs.

While the future outlook for REITs in the GCC is mixed, with factors like global labor market conditions and inflation influencing prices, experts anticipate a trend towards specialisation. Focus areas include dominant regional asset classes such as office spaces, retail, education, healthcare, and logistics. The rise of REITs continues to redefine the real estate investment landscape, offering investors a strategic avenue to navigate the dynamic market conditions in the UAE and the broader GCC region.

Original article reference: Gulf Business

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