2018 has been a challenging year for Dubai’s property developers. The city, which has long been a global hot spot for tourism and cutting-edge architecture, has suffered a decline in development due to unfavorable trading conditions. DAMAC Properties, one of the region’s most prominent luxury development companies, is among the businesses that have taken a hit this year. But DAMAC owner (and prominent business leader) Hussain Sajwani is optimistic and, as always, looking forward.
In an interview published by Bloomberg’s Arabian Business on November 24, the DAMAC owner said he’s not concerned about the money he’s lost this year. (According to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index, his coffers have decreased by close to 30% this year, to about $3.6 billion. DAMAC recently reported revenue over a 3-month period 33% lower than the same period last year.) In fact, Hussain Sajwani sees periodic financial disappointment as an expected aspect of doing business. “I’ve been in business for almost 38 years. Profits and net worth? They go up, come down. I’ve seen cyclical markets. Yes, I’ve had tough times, like in 2008, and I hope they don’t come back again,” he explained in the interview.
Hussain Sajwani, never one to dwell on the past, is living in the present and planning for the future. In the interview, he continued, “You don’t look at your profits every day. Instead, you focus on matters like adding more members to your team, building your brand name, improving service to the customer. On a day-to-day basis, those are the more important things. So, overall, the loss of wealth this year doesn’t bother me.”
The DAMAC owner is also optimistic that the future is still very bright for Dubai property developers. Arabian Business reports that Hussain Sajwani believes the market will rebound in the next three years.
Perhaps relatedly, Hussain Sajwani is not at all interested in sharing ownership of the company at this time. When asked by Arabian Business about his previously stated potential willingness to sell stake in his company, the DAMAC owner responded, “We haven’t hired any advisers for a sale. …We’re happy the way we are.” (He also noted that his prior statement was purely hypothetical.)
Politics is another side of public life that Hussain Sajwani reports no concern over US President Donald Trump – whose Trump Organization has been a partner of DAMAC for several years – is disfavored by at least 50% of American citizens, and many people around the world have expressed concern about the controversial politician’s statements and policies as well. But Hussain Sajwani is unfazed. “[DAMAC is] very, very happy with [the Trump Organization] – their service and their quality. Without the organization, we would never have been able to build our golf courses,” he told Arabian Business.
When asked by Arabian Business if he had ever tried to talk trade policy with Donald Trump, Hussain Sajwani pushed back, saying, “I’m not a politician. I’m busy 24 hours a day, seven days a week, looking after my business.” He did, however, express some sympathy for Trump’s position on international trade: “The world needs free trade. It isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity. In any trade relation, the two parties involved have to be happy and feel equally treated. …That’s where I feel sympathetic to the US government when they want equal treatment,” he told the news outlet.
Similarly, Hussain Sajwani has not been discouraged from his London projects by UK political changes like Brexit. “[DAMAC is] open to any project in London if it makes sense. We’re keen to do business in London and keen to acquire sites in the city. We have come [to London] for the long-term – not for a building or two,” he told Arabian Business. He went on to clarify, “For most of 2017, we didn’t want to make any decisions until things became clearer for the UK. We’re coming to an end of that uncertainty, and we’ll have a full picture in the next few months.”
There’s no doubt that Hussain Sajwani is incredibly busy with his international business, but he does have other priorities. As he told Arabian Business, “Philanthropy is important… [The Hussain Sajwani – DAMAC Foundation is] sponsoring a program to train 1 million young Arabs to learn computer coding. We just had the first anniversary for that, and we’ve had about 400,000 kids on the initiative so far.”
Despite his jam-packed schedule, it’s not all work and no play for Hussain Sajwani. When asked about what he does to relax, the DAMAC owner replied in part, “The best time I have is with my kids and family.” Perhaps it’s this cherished time with family that helps Hussain Sajwani to maintain his even-keeled attitude toward business and politics alike – and to keep pushing Dubai into the future.