The story behind the developer who built the “twisted tower”
Ahmed Mohammed Alhatti, born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia is the President and Chairman of the Board of Cayan Group. Mr. Alhatti is the man behind the $272mn “twisting tower” called Cayan Tower, in Dubai Marina, UAE. The project has not only won plaudits and awards for its original design, which reduces wind forces on the tower, but has also set the bar high for Cayan, since as described by its chairman, the company can only do similar or even better developments going forward.
Mr. Alhatti has over 20 years of experience in investment and financial services and over 10 years in development, investment in real estate business with successful and iconic & distinctive projects in UAE & KSA. Cayan Group Holding with offices in Riyadh & Dubai consists of subsidiary groups that includes, Cayan Development: a leading real estate developer of iconic projects; Cayan Homes: registered brokerage real estate; Cayan Community Management: acts as the building and facilities management of all our projects and provides customer care to all Cayan clients. And lastly, Cayan Hospitality: manages and oversees Cayan’s hotel apartments, spas, cafes and restaurants.
LEADERS Middle East caught up with Mr. Alhatti for an insight into Cayan’s world.
Mr. Alhatti, you founded Cayan Group back in 2004. Please share with us a brief history on how you established this company. How would you describe the last few years in terms of your operations?
We started Cayan in 2004 when I came to visit Dubai for the purpose of buying different units for my personal use and some others for my friends, then I decided to develop the first project, which is The Jewels towers, that is located in Dubai Marina and this is how Cayan started. Cayan start-up was during the most exciting phase of Real Estate in the region where we aimed for the most rewarding investment opportunities. Such start of Cayan was very distinctive, which was driven by passion and an approach of building unique developments. During the last few years we developed and handed over iconic developments such as Cayan Tower and Silverene in Marina and Layaly Compound in KSA. In the last year, we focused on restructuring the company and in this year we launched several strategic projects in Riyadh, KSA and Dubai, UAE.
Since the start of operations you have heavily invested most of your projects in the Middle East region, particularly in the UAE. What is the potential for growth that you still see in the UAE’s real estate market?
The United Arab Emirates emerged from the financial crisis much faster than anyone had expected. I perceive a much more organized strategic planning for the real estate business in Dubai than five or six years ago. There is more protection for investors, but also better state regulation that ensures the quality of investors themselves, which I believe will safeguard the steady growth of the real estate market in UAE. As for the Middle East region, the whole region will continue being affected by the political situation and turmoil that will probably continue in 2016 and beyond. That’s the biggest threat in the region but with a special approach of management we will always be able to be in control.
After winning the bid to host the World Expo 2020 in the UAE and in particular Dubai, what do you believe would be the impact that hosting this important exposition would have on the UAE’s real estate market?
The announcement of Expo 2020 is having a great positive impact on the economy of UAE. With Expo 2020 four years away, everyone now perceives the countdown as a driving goal until that time. This makes the real estate market in UAE more stable.
Cayan’s iconic twisted tower is recognized as the tallest twisted tower in the world and one of the most important real estate projects implemented in Dubai recently. Please share with us some of the most important details that you had to have in mind when developing this unique project and how successful has this development been commercially?
Cayan Tower is a residential landmark that has achieved international recognition. Developing this project was indeed very challenging due to its 90 degrees twist and its helix shaped structure. At that time we could have opted to construct a regular, tall building and the location alone would have made it a stand-out scheme, but instead we were driven by our vision to develop a unique project that would be instantly recognizable and that would distinguish Cayan from other developers.
Having been awarded as "the best business leader of 2015" by MENAA, What does this award mean to you, of being recognized as one of the most respected business leaders in the region?
I’m proud to be recognized in such awards, this is the result of the hard work of all the Cayan team and I’m proud to represent the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in such event.
Mr. Alhatti you have stated, “We strongly believe in the importance of teamwork, integrity and achievement, which are the foundation of our success”. How would you describe the leadership style that has defined the way in which you run your company?
We work together as one family where we support each other but at the same time we enhance the level of professionalism for each member in the company.
The real estate market has taken a new reality after the world economic crises of 2008 and 2009. How recovered would you say the UAE’s real estate market is at this point and how vulnerable would this market be if it were to experience future shocks of this nature?
As I mentioned earlier, UAE market has overcome the financial crisis faster than any other country, the real estate market in UAE has recovered from the crisis and is currently much more regulated and organized. The
Could you share with us any new important projects that you have in the pipeline for 2016?
We have recently launched three projects, Cayan Cantara in Dubai, CMC and Samaya in KSA:
Cayan Cantara is the newest project in the heart of Dubai; it comprises of luxurious residential and hotel apartments in accordance with the freehold ownership system. It is, in simple terms, the ideal investment opportunity given its special location along the strategic Umm Suqeim Road and a 5 Star hotel operator will manage it.
CMC, is a sophisticated offices centre located along King Fahad Road which is the most vital road in the vibrant city of Riyadh. CMC supports the business with its modern and high-end facilities and services including luxury offices and high tech fitness centre in addition to a multipurpose hall and a restaurant.
Samaya, a 1 million square meter development situated in a prime location in northwestern Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It offers investors a tremendous opportunity to own a piece of land or build a home.