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URC

KUWAIT - Real Estate & Construction

Mazen Issam Hawwa

Hawwa Group CEO, United Real Estate Co (URC)

Bio

Mazen Issam Hawwa is Vice Chairman & Group CEO of URC. He joined URC as Group CEO in 2020. He was a member of the senior management team of KIPCO Group, where he has spent more than 19 years. He joined the finance and accounts team in 2001, and his last position was deputy group COO, leading finance and operations. He also serves on the board of several KIPCO operating subsidiaries. Hawwa holds an Executive MBA from HEC Paris and is a graduate of the Lebanese American University. He has attended several executive education programs, including the General Management Program at Harvard Business School, and holds several professional qualifications from prominent US-based institutions.

“URC’s approach to community-centric development is an integral pillar of our vision.”
Celebrating over 50 years of operational excellence, URC has grown into a successful real estate development and investment company by meeting the market’s needs, building sustainable communities, and delivering high-quality projects.
Can you elaborate on United Real Estate’s performance over the past year?

2023 was a strong year for URC, with an increase in net profit, reaching KWD4.2 million in 2023 compared to KWD3.4 million in 2022. Operating profits recorded an increase of KWD25.3 million in 2023 compared to a loss of KWD17.3 million in 2022, representing an increase of 245.9%. This growth can be attributed to our portfolio diversification strategy, optimizing the operations of our various asset classes and investing in a range of geographical locations. Our geographic expansion across the MENA region has been a key driver of growth, particularly in Egypt, Jordan, and Oman. Our Abdali Mall in Jordan has been a strategic investment for URC, positively contributing to our profit margin. The success of the mall comes from its holistic concept as part of the mixed-use development and its prime location in the heart of the capital Amman and overlooking renowned hotels, banks, and business entities. We are also exploring potential plans to develop office spaces and residential units which will provide added value specifically to the development and generally to the Abdali area in which the hotel is located. In Oman, URC was the first to introduce an entertainment element to the community with the establishment of Salalah Gardens Mall, a substantial plot area of 65,367sqm, boasting a built-up area of 86,074sqm. The mall features a total leasable area of 28,810 sqm, ensuring a diverse and vibrant space for retailers, F&B establishments, entertainment venues, and a souq. Recently in Egypt, we have launched Waldorf Astoria Cairo, the first in Egypt and Africa. The hotel brings a sense of luxury, welcoming atmosphere providing unforgettable experiences, and seamless, personalized service to the Egyptian capital, providing a tranquil oasis for guests to unwind away from the bustling streets of the city. We expect the Egyptian hospitality sector to continue its strong growth powered by rapid increasing demand in tourism in the coming years. As a result, we are excited to explore plans for a boutique resort in Sharm El Sheikh, which is expected to be a tourist destination and a profitable investment that is consistent with the company’s strategy. Furthermore, Marina World, the landmark beachside mall and hotel in Kuwait, celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2023. Marina World offers a diverse range of attractions and events that cater to a wide audience. The mixed-use development is designed to accommodate various interests and age groups and provides a space for everyone to enjoy and participate in various activities, making it a versatile and engaging destination. In addition to our success in retail, hospitality, and leisure, URC is expanding into the residential and commercial sectors. With over 50 years of experience in Kuwait, we are excited to introduce our newest development in Hessah District, focusing on the asset class URC is best known for. Our business in Hessah District involves the delivery of two residential components—Hessah Towers and Byout Hessah. As our business continues to expand across various asset classes, we are proud to prioritize residential development in Hessah District. URC had a great year in 2023. Our diversification was a key factor in reducing risks and differentiating us from others, though our strategic focus on operational optimization across our asset classes drove our success. We have seen growth in certain geographies, and our operational cornerstone in Kuwait has been a key factor. We reintroduced our brand with a new range of products, marking our return to the residential market, serving our end customers. We are excited to continue offering quality properties and services to all our customers, whether through our shopping centers, hospitality properties, or residential offerings.

What have been some of the URC’s achievements in terms of sustainable development and corporate responsibility?

URC is dedicated to sustainable development practices and corporate social responsibility. We champion fair employment and good health by sponsoring initiatives that serve the development of the youth, women, and the general public. In 2022, URC partnered with the UN to promote Women’s Empowerment Principles. Adopting these principles resulted in URC achieving its vision to build and sustain a gender-equal work environment. Currently, approximately 33% of URC’s workforce are women, with 27% holding senior-level positions, which is higher than the global average. URC not only employs exceptional women, but also supports their initiatives. We are proud to have sponsored the KFA Women’s Futsal League for three consecutive years. URC has a vested interest in developing the youth. We were one of the first companies in Kuwait to sign MoUs with local universities such as American University of Kuwait and the Australian University to develop tailored, project-based programs. URC facilitated Kuwait University students’ graduation projects with site visits, focusing on topics related to the Hessah District project. Students developed term projects related to a boutique hospitality concept, judged by a committee of KU instructors and URC’s engineers. We were also the Strategic Sponsor for the non-profit AlNowair’s Youth Empowerment through Purposeful Theatre initiative, which aims to help young women develop their personal and leadership skills by adopting purposeful theater methods. An innovative and sustainable approach to real estate development can have a profound impact on society. One prime example is our Hessah District project, a mixed-use development that has received international acclaim for its groundbreaking design. By utilizing sustainable materials and innovative design, we have created a walkable district in one of the hottest countries on Earth. The buildings themselves are clad in sustainable materials that increase ventilation and reduce the need for energy-intensive cooling. We are still in the process of developing an encompassing sustainability approach and strategy in which will be embedded in our overarching philosophy and operational model for the future.

Can you elaborate on the company’s long-term vision?

After 50 years of operational excellence, URC is looking ahead to the next 50. Our long-term vision is to continue building upon the customer-centric strategy and values that has led us to our current level of success. URC is committed to creating value for its shareholders, building sustainable communities, delivering high-quality projects, and building trust. As part of this commitment, the company is strategically expanding its footprint in key markets and actively studying and overseeing potential new markets, with the aim of capitalizing on growth opportunities and diversifying its portfolio. URC’s approach to community-centric development is an integral pillar of our vision. By actively involving the community in the planning process and considering their needs and preferences, URC has created housing solutions that enhance the overall quality of life for residents. URC will continue to address Kuwait’s housing challenges by leveraging its prosperous track record to create efficient housing solutions adhering to global quality standards since 1973. We also realize the substantial influence of ESG investing on the real estate enterprises in Kuwait and the region. As part of our commitment to responsible and sustainable business practices, we are excited to announce our integration of specific ESG elements into our investment processes and decision-making. This will not only upgrade our sustainability ecosystem among stakeholders, but also enhance our customer’s experience, offer us resilience to marketplace changes, and position us towards driving and impacting the ESG development agenda. 2024 will be a year of intense focus in Kuwait, as we hand over the residential and commercial components of Hessah District and develop an internal operational excellence to set a new precedent in the country for high-quality property and community management. Our goal is to provide a one-stop-shop for all client’s needs inside Hessah District by actively pursuing deals with several retailers and leading tenants, including medical clinics, restaurants, cafes, and malls. Our philosophy is to always focus on clients’ wants and needs, staying ahead of trends and providing optimal experiences in our properties and future properties to all our clients and visitors.

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