Follow The Leader: Ahmed Khouri, Managing Director, Union Properties
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"A company that doesn’t innovate in its operations and products cannot survive in the marketplace nowadays.” With a declaration like that, Union Properties Managing Director Ahmed Khouri makes it clear that he is not someone who believes in sticking to the status quo. And for someone who works in the real estate space of the UAE, this might seem like a hard principle to abide by- but then again, as Khouri’s statement notes, reinventing and rethinking how business is done is the only way to move forward in the current economic landscape.
This is especially true for an enterprise like Union Properties- the three-decade old company has had to grapple with tough market conditions, which saw it, in 2017, report a net loss of AED2.3 billion, alongside a profit of AED211 million. Of course, this scenario demanded action, and that led to Union Properties making a concerted effort in turning things around for the business. “2017 was a turning point in Union Properties’ work plans,” Khouri remembers. “The new board team conducted a thorough review of the organization strategy, and as a result, a renewed emphasis has been put on developing recurring revenue streams for the group, to provide a stable, long-term, and balanced business model.”
It is thus this new strategy that can be referred to as the basis for all of the actions that Union Properties has taken in the recent past. One of its diversification measures was to form a new investment arm in October 2017 called UPP Capital Investment, which specializes in direct and indirect real estate investments, and will provide in-house expertise to support the group’s long-term strategy. Earlier this year, Union Properties sold off its entire stake in utilities company Emicool to Dubai Investments for a sum of AED500 million, while its facilities management subsidiary ServeU was in the news in June for aiming to launch an IPO in September. Union Properties also announced in January that it had acquired a 5.7% stake in Egyptian developer Palm Hills Development, which signaled its renewed interest in moving into new markets.
And it does look like measures like these did have an impact- Khouri noted that profits amounted to AED180 million in Q1 of 2018, compared to AED42.5 million in the same period, a year earlier. “Union Properties is entering a new chapter of success with a new management vision and internal restructuring, and a new growth plan with clear strategy across all our subsidiaries and operations,” Khouri says. “We are committed to good governance, transparency, and making profits for our stakeholders, while exploring new business opportunities.”
With respect to the road ahead for the business, Khouri says that Union Properties will continue playing to its strengths, with its real estate arm remaining a key component for the company’s development today, and in the years to come. “We focus on investing in viable ventures and continue to do what we do best: build top quality communities that cater for different segments and lifestyles in Dubai,” Khouri says. “The real estate and developments arm of the business remains the biggest contributor, as a result of the high demand on our projects, which is known in the market for its high quality. Having said that, the service and industrial sector is also performing very well today.”
Note here Khouri’s stress on quality when it comes to Union Properties’ offerings: this is, according to him, a key component for the brand’s current -and future- standing in the market. “Our commitment to quality and our focus on liability will always remain at the heart of our communities,” he explains. “We are guided by our core principles of quality, service, creativity, attention, integrity and diversity to delivery for the people who buy units in our developments, who live in our communities, and who invest in our company.”
As for his own personal strategy when it comes to managing an enterprise like Union Properties, Khouri is someone who believes in leading from the front. “There is no substitute for a leader rolling up their sleeves, and getting personally involved, when significant financial and symbolic value is at stake,” he notes. But Khouri also makes it clear that a strong, motivated team is essential for any enterprise to get ahead in the game- and it’s up to its leadership to make sure the people onboard are inspired enough in that regard.
And why is doing this so important? Khouri points toward human nature to explain: “People will go to extraordinary lengths for causes they believe in.”