Seashore, Inc.

How de­vel­op­ers are po­si­tion­ing them­selves along Beirut’s west­ern wa­ter­front

Executive Magazine - - Real Estate -

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

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