Emirates REIT is a Dubai-based real estate investment trust that invests principally in income-producing real estate in line with Shari'a principles. It currently owns a portfolio of 11 assets in the commercial, education and retail sector and benefits from exclusive Ruler's Decrees permitting it to purchase properties in onshore Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah.
It is operated by the Equitativa Group, a leading regional asset manager, that is focused on creating and managing real estate investment trusts (REITs). The group offers innovative, risk-adjusted, income-generating financial products that cater to institutional and retail investors. As the founder of the UAE’s first Shari’a compliant REIT, Emirates REIT, Equitativa is today one of the largest REIT managers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region and one of the biggest Shari’a compliant REIT managers in the world.
Sylvain Vieujot has been nominated for the CEO Award. He is the co-founder and Executive Chairman of Equitativa Group, a group of companies that specialises in creating and managing financial products in emerging markets and particularly Real Estate Investment Trusts. He has been an entrepreneur with 30 years of experience in creating, expanding and listing companies, and previously created Freelance.com (which was listed on the French Stock Market – Alternet of Euronext), Platre.com and the Enata Group. He first arrived in Dubai in 2005 and launched Emirates REIT in 2010 in a joint venture with the Dubai Islamic Bank, which became the first listed Shari’a compliant Real Estate Investment Trust in the Middle East in 2014.
He is currently shifting his focus to the growth of Equitativa as Executive Deputy Chairman and will continue to play a critical role in the REIT’s strategic oversight and direction as part of the management board. The group recently reported its FY 2021 financial results for Emirates REIT and followed on from a challenging year in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic impacted real estate markets globally. Despite these issues, Emirates REIT reported a 59.3% increase in operating profit to USD 46.6 million in 2021 compared to the previous year. Net profit for the period was USD 63.1 million, compared to a net loss of USD 242.9 million in 2020.
Overall growth in 2021 was driven by an increase in total property income to USD 68.6 million, up 3.9% compared to the same period in the previous year, as occupancy across the REIT’s portfolio grew by c. 2.8 percentage points to 71.8% as at 31 December 2021. Subsequent to the year end, the successful conclusion of ongoing lease negotiations led to a further increase in occupancy to 81.0% as at 31 March 2022. Net property income increased 7.7% as the REIT continued to focus on cost optimisation.
The REIT booked a net unrealised gain on revaluation of USD 44.7 million in 2021 compared to a loss of USD 243.4 million in 2020, as its independent valuers CBRE and Cushman & Wakefield considered the improving market sentiment in the UAE’s commercial and retail real estate markets. The REIT’s portfolio was valued at USD 762.1 million in 2021, a 7.5% increase compared to the previous year. The REIT’s net asset value (NAV) at the end of 2021 was USD 289.8 million, equating to a NAV per share of USD 0.95, up 28.3% compared to the previous year.
Following the positive close to 2021, and the emergence of significant new opportunities in the UAE and broader GCC’s real estate markets, Equitativa also announced plans to expand its management team and governance structures with the Board appointing Thierry Leleu as CEO of Equitativa (Dubai) Limited, Dr Faisal Alayyan to the REIT’s Investment Board, and Simon Townsend to the REIT’s Oversight Board.
Sylvain Vieujot, Executive Deputy Chairman of Equitativa, said: “We delivered a strong set of improved results in 2021, following a difficult year in 2020, as the world tackled the COVID-19 pandemic. The swift and decisive actions taken by the UAE’s leadership supported a sustained recovery and renewed confidence in the local real estate market in 2021, which drove our improved performance during the year.
“Our operating income increased 59.3% year on year, and we recorded a net unrealised gain on revaluation of USD 44.7 million during the year, as a more positive sentiment returned to the UAE commercial real estate market.
“Our portfolio of high-quality commercial assets is ideally positioned to benefit from the continued momentum in the market, as demonstrated by our increasing occupancy rate which continued to grow following the year end increasing to 81.0% in March 2022 from 71.8% at the end of 2021. We also made considerable progress tackling legacy issues during the year, including the DIFC-LCIA award in favour of the REIT with regards to outstanding rent payments by the Jebel Ali School.”
Thierry Leleu, CEO of Equitativa, said: “2022 will be a pivotal year for Emirates REIT. The performance of the business has been strong and resilient despite the previous difficulties presented by the global pandemic. My new role as CEO will see me focused on further improving the operational efficiencies of the REIT and partnering with our stakeholders to enhance its capital structure with the aim to deliver sustainable growth in income and value to our shareholders. With our strong base of investors and balanced portfolio of very high-quality assets, we are well placed to take advantage of the upturn we’re seeing in the Dubai property market currently.”
Mr. Leleu, who joined Equitativa as Deputy CEO in November 2021, has a strong track record of building and managing REITs. Until September 2020, he was the Chief Investment Officer of Cromwell European REIT, a trust that listed in Singapore in late 2017. During his tenure there, he grew the portfolio by 50% to about three times the size of Emirates REIT’s portfolio, and drove outperformance for 8 consecutive quarters.