March 8, 2020 / 8:15 AM / in 22 days

Pace of expansion of Dubai's financial center will match demand: governor

DUBAI (Reuters) - Dubai’s financial district will be expanded gradually and only when there is demand for new space, its governor said on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: A general view of Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) among high-rise towers in Dubai, United Arab Emirates June 18, 2019. Picture taken June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Christopher Pike/File Photo

The state-owned Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) started expanding last year and upon completion the new district will have 6.4 million square feet of office space.

“It is on plan but it’s going to be done on gradual basis, in phases. We will start with phase 1A, B, C and then we build according to the needs,” Essa Kazim told reporters at a briefing.

“We are not going to build unless we (have an) affirmed tenant that is interested in taking this space,” Kazim said.

DIFC is the major finance center in the Middle East, hosting international banks, insurance companies and investment firms.

The governor said DIFC’s leased area now stands at around 4.83 million square feet, around a 3% increase year-on-year.

The center’s 10-year strategy that began in 2014 is on track and all key performance indicators (KPIs) have been met, Kazim said.

DIFC now has 2,347 active companies, up 300, or 14%, from 2018. The center registered 493 new companies in 2019, 13% more than 2018.

DIFC added more than 2,000 jobs in 2019, up 9% year-on-year, he said.

Its 2019 operating and net profit were both flat year-on-year at $139 million and $119 million respectively. Its consolidated revenue was $228 million, up 2% from 2018.

PREVENTIVE MEASURES

Kazim said whether employees work from home due to the new coronavirus outbreak is, for now, left to the individual companies at DIFC.

“As far as DIFC Authority is concerned, we do have a plan to do that, to work from home, especially in areas that would not require the presence and attendance,” he said.

Kazim said preventive measures for the new coronavirus are largely taken in line with state directives, but said some internal measures are also being taken.

“There are internal measures via increasing and intensifying cleaning operations and disinfecting, and providing disinfectants everywhere,” he said.

He said the situation is “under control so far” but said the DIFC Authority is ready to take any action necessary.

Kazim acknowledged the global nature of the virus’ spread and its impact on business, but said DIFC has a backlog that it is now fulfilling and said it is too early to measure the outbreak’s future impact.

Reporting by Yousef Saba;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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