UPDATE 2-UAE's Aldar sees project completions driving revenue growth

Mon May 12, 2014 5:31am EDT

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* Loans worth 2.8 bln dhs repaid in Q1 2014

* Aldar has cash to pay off 2014 debt - CFO (Recasts, adds management call details)

By Stanley Carvalho

ABU DHABI, May 12 (Reuters) - Payments for completing projects should drive revenue growth at Aldar Properties in the next two quarters, as the largest property developer in Abu Dhabi benefits from a rebound in the local real estate market, its finance chief said.

Abu Dhabi's real estate market slumped by about 50 percent from its peak in 2008 after a bubble burst in the wake of the global financial crisis, with Aldar receiving around $10 billion of government support in exchange for assets to help manage a significant amount of debt taken on in the boom years.

There was also a government-backed merger between Aldar and Sorouh Real Estate, completed last year, which brought together the two main developers in the emirate to cut costs and support Aldar's financial position.

Prices rebounded strongly last year, rising some 25 percent, on the back of a series of market-boosting measures by the government including the scrapping of annual rent caps.

That was reflected in Aldar tripling its first-quarter net profit to 453.4 million dirhams ($123.4 million), well ahead of the forecast from brokerage SICO Bahrain, as project competitions - which usually lead owners to settle the full cost - and sales of developments boosted revenue.

Revenue for the quarter jumped 6 percent to 1.72 billion dirhams, with recurring revenue 22 percent higher year-on-year at 497 million dirhams thanks to its hospitality and investment property portfolio.

The results boosted Aldar's share price, which was up 3.1 percent at 0840 GMT against a flat Abu Dhabi market.

Payments for completing projects would continue to drive earnings, Greg Fewer, chief financial officer at Aldar, told reporters on a conference call, adding revenue from the sale of 1,400 units would also accrue over the next two quarters.

Beyond that, revenue growth would come from assets due for completion including the Yas Mall - a 2.5 million square foot retail complex set to open in November - and some residential projects that could add between 1.5 billion and 1.6 billion dirhams of net recurring revenue in 2016, he added.

Last month, Aldar launched three new developments in Abu Dhabi worth 5 billion dirhams and said it was exploring 23 real estate developments, excluding government projects, as conditions in the local market rebounded.

Fewer said the majority state-owned developer would continue to focus on reducing debt, having paid off 2.8 billion dirhams - around 20 percent of its gross debt - since the start of 2014 using contractual payments from the government of Abu Dhabi.

"We are significantly deleveraging the business and managing debt to our targeted levels. We also have ample cash and liquidity," Fewer said. Aldar was still due 6.7 billion dirhams from the Abu Dhabi government for asset sales and infrastructure works and had 9.7 billion dirhams in cash available at March 31.

Aldar has 6.1 billion dirhams of outstanding debt due by the end of 2014, including a $1.25 billion bond maturing this month.

The firm, builder of the emirate's Formula One race track, was still hunting for a new chief executive following its merger with Sorouh, Fewer said.

($1 = 3.6730 UAE Dirhams) (Additional reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by David French and Mark Potter)

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