June 6, 2019,   2:12 AM

Can Egypt break a world record in real estate? Hassan Morshedy believes it can - and his Skyline project is how

Fouzia Azzab

Arabic editor- Forbes Middle East FULL BIO

Memaar Al Morshedy’s CEO, Hassan Morshedy, is leading his family business as it announces an official attempt to set a world record for its new Skyline community in Egypt as the world's largest residential project. How will this high-scale development change residential architecture in Egypt?

At a very special suhour at the end of May, the stage was set for one of the biggest and grandest parties of the season. Framed against The Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, over a thousand excited guests, including Arab and global celebrities, gathered under the stars to celebrate a proud achievement for the entire country.

While Egyptian superstar Amr Diab prepared to take to the stage for a performance, Mohamed Morshedy—host of the event and founder of one of Egypt’s biggest development companies, Memaar Al Morshedy—grabbed the microphone amidst thunderous applause.

Hassan Morshedy with his father and the company's founder Mohamed Morshedy

Hassan Morshedy with his father and the company's founder Mohamed Morshedy

“My dream since the start of my career, over 30 years ago, was to build something that would be as remembered and admired as the pyramids,” he said to his enthralled audience before officially announcing that the renowned family business had been granted a Guinness World Records Official Attempt for its plans to build the world’s largest residential project in Egypt—aptly named Skyline.

Mohamed’s dream is now being realized by his eldest son, Hassan Morshedy. Having taking the helm as CEO in 2010, Hassan has since helped in gradually scaling the family business to the size it is today. By the end of 2018, the company’s total assets were valued at $5.3 billion, with annual sales worth $234.6 million. Memaar Al Morshedy is currently working on more than 14 different development projects.

Hassan and his team have chosen to bring Skyline to life in the up-and-coming central area of Kattameya in Cairo. At a cost of $550 million, Skyline will feature 13,500 apartments of various sizes, from 59 meters up to 149 meters. Extending over 200,000 square meters, the development will be equipped with parks and recreation grounds, as well as the biggest infinity pool in the world. It will also have the world’s biggest rooftop park in a building and the biggest IMAX cinema in Egypt. More than 3,000 units have already been sold, at a total value of $176 million, with the first batch of apartments expected to be handed to their owners within the next three years.

Skyline will be home to the world's biggest infinity pool

“I want to make sure there is balance between green space and buildings,” says Hassan about the bright and expansive design. “It is something that has not been done before, not just in Egypt but in the entire world.”

The CEO is putting everything into making sure that the finished product will be one of Egypt’s highest-quality residences. He has already hired three of the industry’s finest to bring the vision to life. Mingling with guests at the buzzing launch is international star and world-famous architect, Mohamed Hadid—father to supermodels, Gigi and Bella—and esteemed local designer Raef Fahmy. They worked alongside Spanish design studio, VDP Barcelona, for seven months to initially design Skyline.

At the same time, Hassan contacted and worked with the Guinness World Records, going backwards and forwards conducting meticulous research for a year to ensure that the residential community will be something unlike anything else in the world. Ahmed Makled, CEO of Guinness World Records official partner office in Egypt, was struck by Hassan’s enthusiasm when they began working on the project. “He told me with determination, ‘we will build the biggest building in the world. I’m sure of it’,” Makled remembers.

L-R: Rami Morshedy, Hassan Morshedy, Mohamed Hadid and Hassan Sedky.

The development is coming at the right time for Egypt, with an increasingly young population demanding stylish, modern and affordable homes—something hard to come by in a city bursting at the seams. According to a 2018 report by the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies, Egyptian citizens reportedly inhabit only 7% of the total area of the country, with Cairo alone now home to around 15 million people.

“The demand on properties is steadily increasing in Egypt,” says Hesham Adham, a real estate analyst at Beltone Financial. “Sales for listed real estate companies have gone up from an average of $590-650 million annually from 2016 to 2018, to $3.5 billion.” Adham expects there to be further increases in this positive performance, driven by the steady rise of the population and improved purchasing power propelled by the low-rate of price inflation.

For Hassan, the key is to create something that is not just functional and able to offer homes to a large community, but that also speaks to the dreams and lifestyles of Egypt’s new generation.

“The youth make up the majority of the Egyptian people—that’s why we put understanding the needs of the youth segment as our main target,” he explains. “They are our future. I want to give young families their ideal lifestyle.”

Skyline’s stunning launch is somewhat shadowed by challenging market forces that could pressure Egypt’s residential real estate market. The floatation of the Egyptian pound in 2016 and a recently announced property tax have made the market competitive, implying a need to develop the rest of the governorates and reduce the housing pressure in the capital. But Hassan remains optimistic.

Hassan Morshedy and his brother Rami Morshedy

The young CEO’s bright outlook is born of a fearlessness handed down to him by his greatest idol—his father, Mohamed. Although he only formally joined the company nine years ago, Hassan started accompanying his father to his work when he was just 14-years-old to learn the ropes of the business and Mohamed’s approach to running it. Later, he went on to study in England and the U.S., becoming an alumnus of both Oxford and Harvard Universities.

Having caught the travelling bug, Hassan then began his career working alongside his cousins developing projects in Los Angeles in 2006. He returned to Egypt three years later and developed and launched AMP, a luxury housing company owned by his family, before joining his father in real estate in 2010.

By then Memaar Al Morshedy was already a well-known force in Egypt. Morshedy’s father Mohamed was as young as his son when he started dabbling in the real estate business. Having worked in England and later in Egypt for an oil company, Mohamed returned to real estate by buying two apartments in Maadi. As the business grew, the senior Morshedy earned a nickname in the market: the shark of Maadi. “They thought he was an old man—they were surprised to find he was still just 30-years-old,” his eldest son says proudly.

After joining the family business in 2010, Hassan revealed a gift for marketing and project development. In that same year, he launched a youth housing campaign for two projects, Degla Palms and Degla Towers, which enjoyed unexpected success after the release of the advertising campaign he led. He also redesigned the company’s premium projects and hired renowned designers and architects, helping the company reach up to 70,000 clients. “Father gave me the space needed to start with my work and show what I can do,” he remembers. “He passed me the torch and I work hard to be like him.”

While Hassan leads the family business today it is still very much a family affair. His brother Rami heads the company’s sales, while a cousin, Hassan Sedky, is the chairman of the group, and of course as founder Mohamed is a consistent and important influence.

But Hassan’s time as CEO has not been entirely smooth. The Egyptian revolution in 2011 hit Memaar Al Morshedy’s sales while revenues slowed by 70%. With Hassan at the helm, the company reviewed its marketing strategy, starting from offering payment facilities, to decreasing the size of the apartments from 150 to 70 meters. In doing so, it introduced the previously unrepresented concept of studio apartments to the Egyptian market.

“We didn’t expect Egyptians to accept the idea of studio apartments, but the outcome was incredible,” says Hassan. Since then, compact studios have appeared consistently in Memaar Al Morshedy’s development projects.

Mohamed Morshedy receiving Guinness Wolrd record certificate for Skyline Official Attempt from Guinness representative in Egypt.

As well as building Skyline, this year Memaar Al Morshedy will also start work on a new north coast development, with the project set to be the biggest one so far in regard to sales. Built over an area of 1,000 acres with a $2.4 billion investment, the project will target the middle class. “This project is huge in a different way,” says Hassan. It will be an integrated city with hotel apartments and residential places, including all amenities and famous brands such as Disney and Cartoon Network. Marketing plans for this new project will be released by 2020.

The company also recently launched investments to develop and manage real estate projects in Kattameya Business Gate, with apartments ranging from 50 meters to 5,000 meters. And another project in the pipeline is a development in Greece. The company has purchased a collection of properties worth almost $167 million in capital investments, and it is also working on real estate development in the area, including apartments, buildings, hotels, land and developing the world- famous villa Onassis, which will be transformed into a resort.

It’s a busy period ahead for Hassan and the whole family, with record- breaking architecture underway that is changing how Egypt thinks about real estate. But as Amr Diab takes to the stage amidst bursting fireworks and a pulsing light display, for now at least they are finding the time to celebrate.

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