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Indians Own a major share in Burj Khalifa

BurjKhalifa, the world’s tallest tower and perhaps the poshest address in the Gulf, is fast acquiring a distinct Indian identity. Indians now own more than a hundred of 900 apartments in Dubai’s 828-metre skyscraper, a sign of the growing financial power of the community in the Middle East. .

“Indians have bought between 100 and 150 apartments since its completion in 2010,” an executive of project developer Emaar Properties said on condition of anonymity. The figure reflects a growing trend among well-heeled Indians to invest in property in the Middle East, especially Dubai, the luxury hotspot where the real estate market is on a rebound after the slump in 2008. Here, the depreciating rupee is no dampener.

“Indians are the No. 1 when it comes to buying property in Dubai. They buy, sell, flip regularly, and we are getting a lot of queries from them,” said Manish Khatri, vice-president of business development and investments at Dubaibased SPF Realty. Khatri said more than half of SPF’s business comes from Indians.

Prominent Indians who have acquired an address in Burj Khalifa include actors Mohanlal and Shilpa Shetty, Shetty’s entrepreneur husband Raj Kundra and lawyer Rohit Kochhar.

BR Shetty, the owner of the Emirate’s NMC Hospital and money transfer firm UAE Exchange, is reported to have bought the entire 100th floor, while NV George, who owns 14% stake in the Kochi International Airport, has bought seven apartments in the iconic building. “It’s a huge status symbol to own an apartment in the building,” said Delhibased lawyer Kochhar, who set up an office in Dubai recently.

He has the option of inviting clients to the exclusive owners lounge on the 123rd floor, he added. Buying property in Burj Khalifa, however, offers more than just a coveted address. “There is a huge demand for rental in this building,” George said, alluding to the six apartments he has rented out. George sold one two months ago for a 50% profit. Property dealers confirm real estate prices are on the upswing in Dubai, West Asia’s trading hub.

“Property rates are going up and investors see a good opportunity for price appreciation in this market,” said Parvees A Gafur, chief executive officer at Dubai-based Propsquare Real Estate. Property prices in the UAE had plummeted during the global financial crisis, with several project developers halting sales.

They started stabilising early this year following a pick up in economic growth. “Since January this year, rates have risen 20%-30% in the prime areas of Dubai,” said Khatri of SPF Realty. Apartments in the 206-storey Burj Khalifa now cost between Rs 38,000 and 45,000 per sq ft, up from Rs 31,600 per sq ft last year.

When the market was at its peak in 2008, the same property was fetching Rs 1,06,000 per sq ft. Real estate brokers say that while the Burj is a favourite, Indians have also been buying in many other projects across the region. “Many are buying property here to get easy access to the region to set up businesses,” Mudassir Zaidi, a regional director at property advisory firm Knight Frank, said. Knight Frank's India office has helped nine Indians buy property in the Middle East in the last two months. This is despite the rupee depreciating against the dollar.