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Kuwait Financial Centre S.A.K. “Markaz” RESEARCH

Q-1: 2007 Research Highlights: Examining the trends and developments concerning the real estate sector in the Arab Republic of Syria.

Syria: Real Estate Update Highlights Syria is an emerging market offering great potential of growth for real estate companies. Against this background, investors considering opportunities in Syria might find the time now most appropriate. The five year reform plan initiated by the Syrian government covers the period from 2006 – 2010 with the aim of developing the financial system, and enhancing the business and investment environment. The goal is to attract foreign investors and liberalize trade with a view to achieving a 7% growth rate over this period. So far, the achieved growth for years 2006 and 2007 has averaged 3.5% respectively according to IMF. Syria is rapidly developing its infrastructure and superstructure in tourist areas to prepare it for tourism investment projects. Also, there is a new law that is being under study to regulate the leasing companies' terms of operations.

Ola Kurdi Rafei Assistant Financial Analyst Real Estate Department +965 224 8000 ext:1129

Kuwait Financial Centre S.A.K. “Markaz” P. O. Box 23444, Safat 13095, Kuwait Tel: +965 224 8000 Fax: +965 242 5828

Specific developments include • Opening up of economy, with reduction in taxes driving the real estate market. Top end income taxes of 35% were cut to 28% for income more than $61,750. • FY06 apartment prices increased by 20% on a YoY basis and rentals increased by 40% as compared to last two years. Districts of Malki and Mazzeh are witnessing the highest price rise. • Residential prices on a rise due to favorable demographics and increase in the number of foreign business executives demanding high end residential units (Luxury apartments). • Commercial supply growth rates continue to lag demand growth rates. This is expected to keep the prices on a firm note. Hotels segment (constituting 10% of FY06 Real GDP), continues to witness more than 15% YoY growth. Current supply falls short in number of rooms at 2Mn hotel nights. • Eight of the nine projects unveiled during current period targets high end residential complexes and the tourism segment. • Approx 1Mn Sq Meters real estate projects launched during the past 2 years. Outlook We expect the rental yield to decline for housing and commercial while it is expected to increase for industrial.

Rental Rate / Selling Price Housing Present Projected Industrial Present Projected Commercial Present Projected

= Rent Yield


= = = =

RESEARCH March 2007

New Projects • Eighth Gate - Emaar Properties/Invest Group Overseas: The project is divided into three zones, including a commercial centre, a waterfront, and a residential area. It is to be located in the Yafour area of Damascus; the development will include a piazza, a commercial tower, a plaza, and a mall covering an area of 41,806 Sq Meters. Work is due to be completed within five years commencing in 2006. The complex is expected to create 25,000 jobs. • Damascus Hills - Emaar Properties/Invest Group Overseas: The project will offer residential apartments and villas, and features a specialized information technology zone, prime office space, and retail outlets. • Damascus Financial District - Aref Investment Group: Eight Kuwaiti firms are finalizing an agreement with Syria to launch a real estate project in Damascus. The first stage comprises the building of a financial district and bourse by the end of 2007, with the full mixed-use scheme completed by 2010. • Syria Bonyan City - Bonyan International Investment Group: Located 40km west of Damascus, the project will include business centers, hotels, entertainment parks, residential areas, sport clubs, hospitals, skiing centers, internet and education centers and a free trade zone over an estimated 70,000 Sq Meters area. Project is scheduled to be completed in 12 years. • Futtaim Project - The Futtaim Group: the project is located near the Syrian-Lebanese borders. The project includes hotels, villas, commercial malls and entertaining amenities. The project is expected to start the construction work in the near future. • Palm Village – Bin Laden Group: Located in Yafour area alongside Damascus-Beirut highway, Palm Village is the first project to benefit from the decision which allowed Arab and foreign investors to acquire 100% of the tourist projects. The project was completed and totally sold in the summer of 2006. The project consists of a four-star motel and 33 villas in addition to a recreation centre and seven shops to supply the tenants with their needs. • Latakia Tourism Projects - Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company is planning tourism development on the Mediterranean coast near Latakia which will have a total area of 220,000 Sq Meters. The project involves the construction of a five-star hotel, beach apartments, villas, and swimming pools. Beirut-based Erga will carry out the master plan and its subsidiary, Erga Management, is the engineer and construction supervisor. France’s Sogreah is the marine consultant. Kuwait’s Al-Noor Financial Investment Company is in negotiations with the Tourism Ministry for a second project near 6 October Lake in Latakia. • Kiwan Project- Kharafi & Sons: This project will be located in the center of the capital on a 50,000 Sq Meters plot. The scope of work will include a five-star hotel to be managed by the US Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts, a mall, a conference center and associated facilities. Kharafi is in final negotiations with the Tourism Ministry over the scheme, which will be developed on a 45-year Build-Operate-Transfer model (BOT). • Nasser Gardens – Kharafi & Sons: The project will cover an area of 1 million Sq Meters in the suburbs. The scope of work involves the construction of a residential compound with villas and apartment

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RESEARCH March 2007 buildings. Kharafi is waiting to obtain a permit to proceed with the project.

Residential Sector Following almost 10 years of stable demand rates till 2003, the housing sector has witnessed price hikes of 20% in 2006 on a Year-on-Year (YoY) basis and rental prices have increased by 40% compared to two years ago. This trend is expected to continue as long as there is shortage in supply of houses in the Syrian market and vast demand.

Demand for high end residential units is on the rise leading to price and rent hikes.

Demand and Supply Housing prices in the capital of Syria, Damascus, are rivaling those in European capitals. In districts of the Syrian capital such as Malki or Mazzeh, housing prices are specifically on the rise. Nearby towns such as Yafour, Sabbura and Khan Al-Snih are also undergoing a major construction boom with luxury villas being demanded. The demand for luxury villas emanates from business executives that have poured into the capital due to, the recent opening of the economy. Coupled with this is the significant number of Lebanese who escaped Israeli attacks during the summer of 2006 where more than one million Iraqi refugees fled during the 2003 Iraqi war and who have added up to the organic domestic growth in demand. Syria's growing population of around 2% per year, and labor force of 5%, has made it very attractive for real estate investors to enter the market. Demand for residential units and shortage of supply, is expected to keep the prices firm. Also, the recent political turmoil in Iraq and Lebanon has increased the purchasing interests of real estate investors in Syria due to its relatively less risky profile among the countries of the region. As for supply, the amendments of laws have made it favorable and less daunting to invest in real estate. New rates and valuation structures for taxes have been made effective. Reduction in taxes paid on income (considerably higher in Syria with respect to other countries in region, refer to Appendix) has benefited the segment.

Residential Supply Shortage of supply caused by growing population and opening of the economy is necessitating an expansion in the real estate sector.



Mln Sqm 5.12 1.91







Selling prices The Syrian real estate sector growth and development since 2003 have been tremendously reflected in the prices and rents of residential units. Thus, the rental and purchase prices have increased respectively by 40% to 50% between 2003 and 2004. In 2006, apartment prices in major cities of

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RESEARCH March 2007 Syria rose by 20% with respect to the previous year, while rents increased by 40%. Finished







US $ / sq.m

US $ / sq.m

US $ / sq.m

US $ / sq.m

1,500 - 7,000

2,000 - 3,000


7,000 - 10,000


700 - 1,500

1,000 - 1,750

60 - 120



700 - 1,500

1,000 - 1,750

70 - 140



700 - 2,500

1,200 - 2,200

150 - 500



Source: Various sources including brokers

Commercial Sector Finding non-oil sources and target ting foreign investment is the top priority for the government.

The government's 5 year plan kick started in 2006 aiming at finding new non-oil sources of revenues and the targeting of foreign investments which is increasing YoY. This is creating a gap between demand and supply in the real estate commercial sector. International companies entering the market are requiring high end business premises to carry their operations from. However, the commercial and specifically the office segment are suffering from major shortage in supply. New real estate projects are trying to meet those rising demands.


Expected date of Delivery


Emaar Properties

Eighth Gate


Aref Investment Group

Damascus Financial District


Bonyan International Investment Group Syria Bonyan City The Futtaim Group Futtaim Project Source: Markaz Analysis

2018 -

Description Commercial centre, a waterfront, and a residential area Financial District and a stock exchange Business centers, hotels, educations centers, and a free trade zone Commercial malls and hotels

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RESEARCH March 2007 Commercial Supply 954 '000 Sqm


557 353


Opportunity lies in investing in hotels to meet the rising demand from the tourism sector.






Tourism Sector The tourism sector in Syria is among the most promising sectors of the economy in terms of contribution to GDP growth. Tourism revenues amounted to $2.3 billion in 2005, a 3.6% increase over the previous year, while tourism revenues doubled between the years 2000 and 2005. Sensing the opportunity, the Syrian government has been working on developing this sector to make it a source for attracting foreign investment. The government is offering tax exemptions, conducting tourism investment forums where tourist projects are offered for investment, training qualified staff, etc with a view to developing the tourism and transport infrastructure. The number of tourists visiting Syria is substantially increasing. According to the ministry of tourism, the number of tourists that visited Syria during 2005 was 3.5 million, a 17% increase over the previous year. Number in millions

Instability in the region is overrating the Syrian tourism sector being less risky.

Total Arrivals Number of Tourists Nights Spent by tourists Average nights spent by tourists






3.4 1.6 1.9

4.3 2.7 6.3

4.4 2.1 7.6

6.2 3.0 8.0

5.8 3.5 9.1






Source: Central Bank of Syria

The tourist breakdown according to origin and nationality is provided below: Foreigners 14%

Other 13% Lebanese 10%


Gulf 45%

Jordanian 12%

Arab 50% Iraqi 20%

Syrian Expatriates 36%

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RESEARCH March 2007

Night Spent by Tourists CAGR = 37% 3,318 2,914

3,026 3,045

Arab tourist numbers are in constant rise, mostly residing in hotels that are short on meeting demand.






888 2001 Arab






According to the Ministry of Tourism, the current hotel capacity cannot handle any increases in the number of tourists. Syrian hotels are considered over priced and over classified despite the fact that most hotels are in need of renovation and their rates to be re-quoted in order to compete with other countries. The high occupancy rates are a result of the gap between supply and demand. The high occupancy rates and shortage of supply cause an increase in the prices which in its turn has translated into poor quality services leading to over classification of hotel ratings in general. Among the hotel residents, Arab guests constitute a significant portion and they have shown healthy growth rates (2004: 66%; 2005: 6%).Non-Arab guests (or foreign guests) have also shown healthy growth of 23% in 2005 over the previous year.

The gap between supply and demand of hotel nights exceeds 2 million







Number of Hotels







Number of Rooms







Number of Beds













Number of Hotel Residents (thousands)







Hotel Nights (million)







Average Rooms per Hotel

Source: Ministry of Tourism

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RESEARCH March 2007 The Occupancy Rates for five and four stars hotels in Damascus is as follows:


Occupancy Rate

Le Meridian




Cham Palace




Fardoss Tower

80% - 85%


65% - 70%

Royal Suites

60% - 70%

Rotana Suites


Sheraton Sednayah


Source: EY Market Study As can be observed, there is a shortage in supply of 5-Stars and 4-Stars hotels that are most demanded by tourists. Investments made in this sector are mostly needed and might turn to be the most lucrative.

Demand Supply Gap 10.0

Rooms in million

5 Stars and 4 Stars hotels suffer major shortages as they are mostly demanded by Syrian tourists

9.0 8.0


7.0 6.0 5.0 4.0 3.0





Available Number of Rooms/year



Demanded Hotel Nights

As per our estimates, the demand for hotel rooms substantially exceeds that of supply by a gap of 32%. Establishing new hotels (and rooms) will be a key determinant factor for sustaining the tourism boom in Syria. However, the instability of the region and the political pressure on Syria is the main challenge that faces the tourism industry.

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RESEARCH March 2007 APPENDIX: Macro Economy National Accounts The main economic indicators for Syria are as follows: Syria: IMF Database Economic Parameter Gross domestic product, constant prices Gross domestic product, constant prices Gross domestic product, current prices Gross domestic product, current prices Gross domestic product per capita, current prices Inflation, consumer prices Population Current account balance Current account balance

Units LcB % chg LCB USD b USD b % chg Millions USD b % of GDP

2001 2002 982 1018 3.7 3.7 1,010 1,118 21 23 1,254 1,323 3.4 -0.5 16.76 17.21 1.20 1.64 5.7 7.2 Source: IMF

2003 2004E 2005E 2006F 2007F 2008F 1028 1053 1083 1116 1152 1206 1 2.4 2.9 3 3.3 4.7 1,118 1,246 1,428 1,622 1,783 1,960 23 25 27 32 35 37 1,285 1,361 1,468 1,645 1,778 1,823 5.8 4.4 7.2 10 8 5 17.68 18.16 18.65 19.15 19.67 20.20 1.07 0.75 0.22 -0.39 -1.19 -1.12 4.7 3 0.8 -1.2 -3.4 -3

The economy of Syria is highly affected by the region's political factors. Two instances of decrease in growth can be noted in years 2003 and 2005 attributed to the war in Iraq and the political instability in Lebanon. But what is new for the economy is the GDP growth witnessed from non-oil sectors due to the structural adjustment report carried by the government. Economic Contribution The share of building and construction sector has remained fairly constant over the 5 year period from 2001 to 2005, ranging from 3% to 3.3%. If we include the real estate segment, then the total contribution of the GDP from the sector stands at 8% in FY05. Contribution of Real Estate, Construction & Building to Real GDP

8.00 7.32 6.20








The building and construction sector is expected to witness more growth upon the launch of many real estate projects in 2006. The breakdown in construction projects carried by public and private sectors is 30%: 70% respectively. The prices of construction materials such as cement and steel have been rising along global price increases, the depreciation in Syrian pound, and the low production capacities of local cement factories.

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RESEARCH March 2007 Monetary Accounts Monetary Accounts Money Supply (M2) (million USD) Change in M2 Interest Rates on Saving Deposits






3,118 -

2,918 -6.9%

1,521 -91.8%

2,545 43.1%





2,594 1.9% 3%5%

Source: Central Bank of Syria

The liquidity position of the economy reflected the political uncertainty facing the region. After registering a fall of nearly 50%, M2 grew by 67% in 2004. However, the Central Bank has been taking significant reform measures such as raising the base rate, launching certificates of Deposits (CDs), allowing banks to set their exchange rate within acceptable Central bank rates, and permitting citizens to open bank accounts in foreign currencies. Of the new risks facing the country is the decision taken on February 2006 whereby all foreign transactions were switched from US Dollar to Euro. This was followed by the US decision on March 2006 came to end all its relationships with all commercial banks of Syria. Of the main reforms initiated in April 2006 is the enacting of a new law allowing the establishment of money exchange brokerages in Syria and the decision to create a stock market regulated by the Syrian Securities and Exchange Commission (SSEC) to be established accordingly. Demographic Indicators The growth in Syrian population is considered to be among the highest in the region. Syria’s population is laced with a structure whereby around 50% of the population is under the age of 20. This young population along with the increase in workforce is expected to increase the demand for housing and office space. 2001 2002 Population (millions) 16.7 17.1 % Growth in population - 2.4% Work force (millions) 4.8 4.8 % Growth in workforce - 0.5% Unemployment rate 11% 12% * 2006-2007 estimates Source: Central Bank of Syria
















4.6 5.4%

4.3 5.4%












Investments One of the main pillars of a healthy economy is the size of its investments. Syria is working hard on attracting new investments through allowing the private sector to invest in areas that were hitherto restricted to state monopoly. These sectors include banks, insurance companies, and cement factories. The volume of investments under the investment law No. 10 since its issuance in 1991 till the end of the year 2005 amounts to $17.25 billion which represents 42% of total investments since the issuance of the investment law. Investments carried during 2005 were distributed among economic sectors as follows:

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RESEARCH March 2007

Distribution by Economic Sectors Agriculture 3%



Others 6%

Industrial Sectors 64%

Real Estate 16%

% Distribution of Local Banks' Credit (2005) In 2005, foreign investments amounted to $2.65 billion which is 37% of total investments. This investment has included 45 projects. The local bank credit to the real estate sector in 2005 is proportional to the sector's percentage of contribution to investments. Real Estate Regulations Many significant and crucial changes in Syrian laws and decrees have taken place in years 2006 and 2007 to reform previous regulations and make them more attractive to investors. Among the most important ones are: Replacing Investment Law # 10 (1991) with a new Investment Law issued in January 2007 that is more flexible in terms of ownership rights, renting lands and real estate for investment projects with no limits, and limiting government intervention in annulling these rights except for the sake of public benefit after compensating for the investor. Also the new law has granted residency rights to the investor and his family as well as work licenses and residencies for the foreign workers of the investment project. The investor has the right now to transfer his profits in any desired currency after paying taxes on foreign currency exchange. The law has also made it possible for the investor to retransfer his money to his mother country after 6 months in case of defaulting on the investment. Also specialists, workers, and technicians of all nationalities are allowed to transfer 50% from their net salaries and bonuses and 100% of their end of service indemnity to their countries in any desired currency. The investor is allowed to use private equipments shipped from abroad for the project. This law has incorporated the bilateral and multilateral agreements related to investments signed with other countries and with Arab and International organizations. In addition, the law has given the freedom to investors to insure their projects in any of the Syrian insurance companies and gave the right to import all assets needed for the projects free of any customs.

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RESEARCH March 2007 Legislative decree # 51 (2006), related to income taxes has reduced the tax burden on investors as follows:

Taxable Income SYP 1 - 50,000 50,001 - 200,000 200,001 - 400,000

Tax Rate 2003 0% 10% 15%


Taxable Income SYP 1 - 50,000 50,001 - 200,000 200,001 - 500,000 500,001 – 1,000,000 1,000,001 3,000,000

400,001 - 700,000 700,001 1,000,000 1,000,001 2,000,000 2,000,001 3,000,000 > 3,000,001



> 3,000,001

Amended Tax Rate 2006 0% 10% 15% 20% 24% 28%

29% 35%

In this decree, the income tax for tourist projects was specified at 2.5% on taxable income and 0.5% on salaries and wages. Legislative decree # 8 (2007), enabled investors to freely transfer their profits on capital invested in Syria and in the desired foreign currencies. Also this decree allows investors to hold assets, lands, and real estate within the scope of the project and has totally exempted all the elements of production including equipments and vehicles for employee transportation from customs. In addition to these decrees, many ministerial decisions have been taken at year end 2006 regarding tourist projects; among the most important is Decision Number 163 dated 11 December 2006, which regulated the tourist investment projects whereby it specified the following: • Percentage of construction doesn't exceed 25% of the total land area • The investment factor doesn't exceed 75% of the total land area • Landscaping should be 40% of land area • Pathways, pavements, and open spaces as well as parking lots don't exceed 35% of the land area where no less than 40% designated as parking • Basements shouldn't exceed 25% of land area and shouldn't be counted towards the investment area • 4 and 5 Stars Hotels are not allowed to go higher than 29 meters which shouldn't exceed 8 floors. In Syria, property registration fee is due upon the registration of real estate, its sale, assignment or inheritance that amounts to 5, as estimated by the Ministry of Finance. Also customs paid on construction material amounts to 4% - 20% depending on the nature of the material imported. Government Subsidies The Real Estate Bank of Syria grants loans for individuals to build residential houses or chalets on the condition that the loaned sum for the non saving depositor individual is the lower of 75% of the construction cost or 600,000 SYP. The number can reach 700,000 SYP for the saving depositor individual

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RESEARCH March 2007 or 75% of the total construction cost which ever is lower. However, the individual must have deposited in a real estate saving account as minimum 100,000 SYP for at least 3 months. The value of land or roof is not included in total cost. Ease of Doing Business in Syria Ease of Doing Business in Syria (among 175 countries) 2006 2005 Change in Ease of: Rank Rank Rank Doing Business 130 135 +5 Starting a Business 142 146 +4 Dealing with Licenses 87 92 +5 Employing Workers 89 103 + 14 Registering Property 88 87 -1 Getting Credit 117 117 0 Protecting Investors 118 114 -4 Paying Taxes 59 59 0 Enforcing Contracts 153 153 0 Closing of a Business 77 75 -2 Employing workers (2006) Indicator Syria Region OECD Difficulty of Hiring Index 0 29.7 27 Time (days) 134 206.9 149.5 Cost (% of income per capita) 298 499.9 72 Registering Property (2006) Procedures (number) 4 6.6 4.7 Time (days) 34 49.4 31.8 Cost (% of property value) 27.9 6.9 4.3 Protecting Investors (2006) Investor Protection Index 4.3 4.6 6 Enforcing Contracts (2006) Procedures (number) 47 41.6 22.2 Time (days) 872 606.1 351.2 Cost (% of debt) 21.9 17.7 11.2 Syria's economy has been suffering for the past years due to excessive government control and weak economic freedom. According to the Index of Economic Freedom prepared by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal, Syria has ranked 142 out of 157 countries in the world in terms of being the least enjoying economic freedom, and ranked 15 out of 17 in the Middle East and North Africa region.

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RESEARCH March 2007

Economic Freedom Score 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 Total Average Score 37.0 35.6 37.5 37.3 45.5 Regulation 30 30 30 30 30 Trade 30.0 30.0 10.0 10.0 30.0 Fiscal 54.4 55.2 83.9 75.0 88.3 Government 63.5 62.4 68.4 70.4 63.7 Monetary 74.9 73.0 75.1 80.5 72.6 Investment 30 30 30 30 30 Financial 10 10 10 10 10 Property Rights 30 30 30 30 30 Corruption 10 0.0 0.0 0.0 34.0 Labor N/A N/A N/A N/A 66.4 Total MENA 54 54 56 55 55 Average Score *100 = most free Source: Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal



50.5 58.1 49.0 86.7 59.9 71.9 30 30 30 34.0 55.3

48.2 56.6 49.0 88.3 57.5 68.9 30 10 30 34.0 57.4



It can be noted that Syria scores very well in terms of fiscal freedom. The top income tax is relatively low, and the corporate tax rate is moderate. The overall tax revenue is low as a percentage of GDP. In the most recent years, overall tax revenue as a percentage of GDP was 11.6%. Syria has also improved post 2005 were it became freer in terms of regulation and trade. It remained almost constant in terms of fiscal, monetary, investment, financial, property rights, and corruption, and became less free in terms of government and labor.

Disclaimer This report has been prepared and issued by Kuwait Financial Centre S.A.K (Markaz), which is regulated by the Central Bank of Kuwait. The report is intended to be circulated for general information only and should not to be construed as an offer to buy or sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy or sell any financial instruments or to participate in any particular trading strategy in any jurisdiction. The information and statistical data herein have been obtained from sources we believe to be reliable but in no way are warranted by us as to its accuracy or completeness. Opinions, estimates and projections in this report constitute the current judgment of the author as of the date of this report. They do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Markaz and are subject to change without notice. Markaz has no obligation to update, modify or amend this report or to otherwise notify a reader thereof in the event that any matter stated herein, or any opinion, projection, forecast or estimate set forth herein, changes or subsequently becomes inaccurate, or if research on the subject company is withdrawn. This report does not have regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation and the particular needs of any specific person who may receive this report. Investors should seek financial advice regarding the appropriateness of investing in any securities or investment strategies discussed or recommended in this report and should understand that statements regarding future prospects may not be realized. Investors should note that income from such securities, if any, may fluctuate and that each security’s price or value may rise or fall. Accordingly, investors may receive back less than originally invested. Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance. Kuwait Financial Centre S.A.K (Markaz) does and seeks to do business, including investment banking deals, with companies covered in its research reports. As a result, investors should be aware that the firm may have a conflict of interest that could affect the objectivity of this report.

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Syria Real Estate Overview