How developers are positioning themselves along Beirut’s western waterfront
On February 10, 1966, Inmaa Tourism and Hotels bought two plots of land on the sandy shores of Ramlet al-Baida. Eight years later, the company bought seven more plots, bringing its total land holdings on the coast in this area of Beirut to around 30,000 square meters (m²). The land is still owned by Inmaa. Who owns Inmaa, however, is another story entirely, one which reflects the confusing ownership structure of the land stretching from Dalieh near the Pigeon Rocks to the end of Beirut’s southern city limits (see map). Individual people own only around 27 percent of the Dalieh-Ramlet al-Baida land. The public sector — via the Beirut Municipality and the Lebanese government — each own three plots which represent around 5 percent of the land. Corporations own the rest. The three with the largest holdings are Sakhrat Al-Bahr Real Estate, Al-Bahr Real Estate and Inmaa. On a human level, however, Rafik Hariri’s heir and Wissam Achour are the most important players on Beirut’s private coast.
WHO OWNS INMAA
In 2005, Inmaa’s majority shareholder, Kuwait’s General Investment Authority, was trying to sell the company to divest from the land, according to a news report carried by MENA FN. However, this attempt failed, claimed the report, so Inmaa would again try to put itself up for sale.
In Beirut, Raja Makarem stood behind his large wooden desk, using a laser pointer to highlight plots on a giant map of the city on the wall. Nine years ago, he says, he was on the cusp of brokering a deal for an American company to buy 70,000 m² of land for $140 million — including the nine Inmaa plots, which he says accounted for 30 percent of the total land on offer. For the Inmaa land, the buyers were slated to purchase the company’s shares, not the land it owned. The deal, he says, fell through.
In 2007, Stow Capital Partners, a real estate company registered in Bermuda with offices in the UK and Lebanon, announced they’d bought 40,000 m² of land “on the outskirts of the city of Beirut.” Stow’s website explains “[t]he plot was identified in early 2005 as a site with legal problems where value could be added. An option was taken on the land allowing for a window of opportunity to sort through the legal hurdles and investigate if resolutions could be facilitated, while locking in a very competitive price.” A 2014 document from Lebanon’s commercial registry shows no reference to Kuwait’s General Investment Authority’s ownership in Inmaa. Instead, Walid Daouk, a nonexecutive director at Stow and former information minister, owns 21.2 percent of Inmaa, while Stow itself owns 8.1 percent. Inmaa’s largest shareholder is a company called Barbara Bay Ltd with 32.3 percent. Executive believes Barbara Bay is registered in the Cayman Islands, but could not retrieve documents showing definitive proof. Nazem el-Khoury, Stow’s executive director and a former minister of environment, tells Executive that Stow kicked around ideas for a large scale development a