The Business Year

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Cyril Piaia

CEO, Emaar, The Economic City (KAEC)


A seasoned senior executive with more than two decades of leadership experience, Cyril Piaia serves as CEO of Emaar, The Economic City. Prior to joining the company in 2021, he was managing partner & founder at Stratford & Russell. Previously, Piaia was CEO of Musstir Group in Oman. He has also served as CEO of Orascom Development. Prior to that, Piaia was senior manager for Arthur Andersen in Paris, leading the firm’s European practice for hospitality, real estate, travel, and tourism. He holds a bachelor of science Degree from Lycée Thiers in Marseille and a master’s degree in engineering from École Centrale in Lille, both of them with honors.

"In September 2021, we welcomed PIF as a 25% shareholder and I became the new CEO."
Emaar, the Economic City is on a major urban development path to put KAEC not only on the regional, but world map, as a leading global investment destination.
Can you outline the major events of the past year?

In September 2021, we welcomed PIF as a 25% shareholder and I became the new CEO. From September to December, we took some time to do an assessment of the city’s baseline to determine where we currently stand in terms of issues and opportunities. Then in January, we presented a new strategy to the board of directors, which was the first board chaired by PIF. Our overhauled strategy is designed to strengthen KAEC’s capabilities and scale up its impact to further contribute to the objectives of Vision 2030. Firstly, we have changed the business model. Previously, the company was an end-to-end type of developer doing everything by itself. Now, we focus mainly on being the custodian of the master plan while overseeing urban development and primary infrastructure development. Secondly, we want to bring third-party developers and investors to the city. This will help development to move much faster, and we will not be limited by our own capital. Thirdly, we aim to highlight the advanced investment-ready infrastructure available, particularly in Industrial Valley, with the goal of attracting investors and businesses across diverse industries. We also wish to position ourselves in terms of leisure and entertainment, and are aiming to cater to an upscale type of tourism. For instance, we have signed with Rixos for a major development with 576 rooms plus the biggest water park in Saudi Arabia, and perhaps even the Middle East. We are also looking at business tourism with MICE and other activities, and will look into how we can integrate pilgrim tourism into our overall strategy. The city has a high-speed train, and we are located exactly an hour from Medina and an hour from Mecca by train. There is also a strong focus on urban planning to develop KAEC as a fully integrated urban community that offers a wide variety of housing and lifestyle solutions. Our key advantage compared to other giga-projects is that we are advanced with regards to infrastructure. We are meeting with all the stakeholders from governments and rebuilding connections with various different stakeholders. All of this is creating many exciting opportunities for investors.

How is the Made in Saudi brand playing out for you, and what particular industries are you focused on attracting?

As the home of many car manufacturing and assembly facilities, KAEC is recognized as Saudi Arabia’s automotive manufacturing capital. We have Juffali Automotive Company, which is the sole distributor for Mercedes-Benz passenger cars in Saudi Arabia, and are in discussions with several other leading companies. This automotive cluster will become the main hub for automotive manufacturing in the Kingdom. The long-term ambition from His Royal Highness is to start producing cars made in Saudi Arabia, and this is what we are working toward. We also have a food cluster, a pharmaceutical cluster, and a few more. We do not wish to dilute our capabilities, and therefore will not move in too many different directions at once. There are already more than 100 tenants in those clusters, although not all of them are active yet, but pharmaceuticals and food are among the key targets moving forward.

How would you characterize the potential for Saudi Arabia to be an entertainment destination in the region, and how do you see KAEC integrating within that?

The Kingdom is moving rapidly to attract international visitors, and entertainment and leisure are part of the big picture where tourism is concerned. Situated by the pristine waters of the Red Sea, KAEC is ideally positioned to develop multi-faceted tourist, entertainment, and leisure offerings that cater to visitors and residents of all ages. We are doing a great job operating our beach destination, Pure Beach, with major concerts, events, and DJs. There is increasing competition now, and so we are working to refine and properly integrate our roadmap now with the new team, which will be aligned with everything the Kingdom is doing at the national level.



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