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Arabtec plans low-cost housing schemes around Abu Dhabi

Arabtec is planning to build low cost housing around the capital as rising rents squeeze earnings.

Arabtec’s new property division said yesterday that it was in discussions with the Abu Dhabi Government to build thousands of new homes for lower paid workers around the capital.

It hopes to build the same sort of low cost housing schemes that it is currently developing in Egypt, where it is constructing 1 million homes with the Egyptian government.

“We have a special solution for low cost housing both inside the UAE and outside the UAE,” the Arabtec chief executive, Hasan Ismaik, told The National. “There are a lot of employees who earn perhaps Dh5,000 or Dh4,000 a month. They want to bring their families here. There is a big need for low-cost apartments with low rents.”

Mr Ismaik said that he hoped to develop the new homes along the lines of those in Dubai’s International City or Discovery Gardens. They would have to be in areas where land values were low and could be as far from the capital as the Western Region.

Rents in Abu Dhabi have been rising sharply over the past year, prompting concerns that many people are being forced out. According to JLL data published yesterday, prime Abu Dhabi rents rose 17 per cent last year and 4 per cent already over the first three months of this year.

The news came as Mr Ismaik announced that the company was in discussions to acquire a large European contractor that specialises in oil and gas.

“All options are on the table to pay for this contractor,” Mr Ismaik said. “We may issue bonds, we may take out loans.”

He said that Arabtec was also pressing ahead with recently announced plans to float at least 40 per cent of the company’s construction unit next year in an initial public offering. He added that Arabtec could also consider floating other parts of the business too.

The contractor yesterday appointed a new chief human resources officer for its construction business, as it diversifies and expands overseas.

Hussain Al Obaidly has 22 years of experience in human resources management in the financial and oil and gas sectors, the company said.

Arabtec has recently launched a recruitment campaign to attract 10,000 employees from the UAE, the GCC, and Middle East and North Africa.

It comes as the company targets higher margin sectors such as oil and gas, power, and infrastructure. Arabtec said it hired 3,000 employees last year.

Arabtec on Monday scotched reports that it had abandoned plans to build what could be Europe’s tallest tower in Russia because of political instability.

Profits for the Dubai-based contractor rose almost threefold to Dh122m in the fourth quarter of last year, compared with the same period the previous year, thanks to a recovering UAE construction market.

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