Average price of first floor apartment in Beirut tops $800k

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — A recent study conducted by RAMCO Real Estate Advisers has revealed that the average price of a first floor apartment under construction in Beirut is of USD 3,720 per SQM.

At an average size of 238 SQM, the average value of such an apartment stands at USD 885,360

This price does not take into consideration the negotiation margins that currently take place on the market.

“Given the slight drop in developers’ asking prices and the decreasing size of new apartments, the value of apartments is slightly lower as compared to 2014,” says Karim Makarem, Director of RAMCO sarl.

Completed in Spring 2015, the study, which covers 345 residential buildings under construction across Municipal Beirut, reveals that the average price of an apartment (on the first floor) has dropped by 4% between 2014 and 2015.

Beirut Central District (BCD) remains a differentiated neighborhood. It collects market highs by posting an average asking price of USD 6,679 per SQM on the first floor and an average size of apartments under construction of 331 SQM.

The average apartment is thus offered at USD 2,210,749.

Outside BCD, Beirut posts wide price disparities. High-end neighborhoods, such as Ain el Tineh or Sursock, post prices that very between USD 4,900 and USD 5,250 per SQM on the first floor.

On the other hand, the mid-market neighborhoods of Ashrafieh (such as Beddawi or Hay el Sirian) start at around USD 2,600 per SQM.

Average Price (on the 1st floor) of an Apartment under Construction in Beirut

Neighborhood BCD  Ashrafieh Ras Beirut Municipal Beirut 
Average Unit Price (USD/SQM)6,679 3,6073,5743,720 
Average Size (SQM)331 229229238 
Average Total Value (USD)2,210,749 826,003818,446885,360 

* in Municipal Beirut Source: RAMCO sarl – August 2015

Real estate group reveals average apartment prices in Beirut

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — Beirut-based real estate advisory firm RAMCO revealed the average sales prices of apartments under construction in Beirut vary between USD 2,088 and USD 7,000 per square meter.

The BCD, the seafront stretch, and some neighborhoods in Ashrafieh are still the most expensive in Beirut. The central residential neighborhoods – from Bachoura to the North down towards Hamad and Rweiss in the South – are the least expensive in the capital.

The RAMCO research department produced a map of average asking prices of apartments in 346 buildings among 71 Beirut neighborhoods.


The map of the prices of new apartments, by neighborhood, reveals several indicators of the real estate market of Beirut:

  • Logically, the seafront neighborhoods of the capital post the highest prices. From Ain el Mreisseh to Ramlet el Baida, averages vary between USD 4,583 and 6,925 per SQM. These prices, however, are not only for projects located on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea but also for projects under construction on secondary streets, where certain apartments do not offer open sea views.
  • The Beirut Central District (BCD) has been divided into five geographical sectors. Averages on the first floor vary between USD 6,000 and USD 7,000 per SQM. Overall, prices have dropped over the past 12 months. As there are no projects currently under construction around the Bay of St. Georges, averages have dropped compared to last year. The highest averages are located in the area of Foch-Allenby, which enjoys views of the Port of Beirut.
  • Not a single neighborhood in the capital posts prices below the symbolic bar of USD 2,000 per SQM. The lowest prices are found in the central neighborhoods of Beirut, between Bachoura and Tarik el Jdideh, and vary between USD 2,088 and USD 2,400 per SQM.

Federal prosecutors pursue Lebanese-American businessman for fraud

(LAS VEGAS, NV) — A Lebanese-American businessman could face more charges in a $190 million federal fraud case, as a federal grand jury recently issued additional subpoenas to testify against the high-rolling entrepreneur.

Ramon DeSage, 64, was charged with allegedly deceiving investors out of $190 million and defrauding the IRS out of $31 million. He is charged with 52 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion.

According to court documents obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the grand jury issued subpoenas for witnesses to testify and provide transactions involving DeSage and his luxury gift supply business.

His company, Cadeau Express, was allegedly used to defraud investors between 2005 and 2012. According to the indictment, DeSage pocketed the money in the scheme to repay earlier investors, maintain his wealthy lifestyle, and cover millions of dollars in gambling losses at casinos along the Strip.

Court documents recently unveiled the names of several suspected victims, including former casino executive William Richardson, who allegedly lost $40 million in investments with DeSage.

DeSage and two of his employees have pleaded not guilty to felony charges. His trial, which is now set to begin on Jan. 26, has been delayed 10 times.

DeSage, also known as Ramon Abi-Rached, is currently under electronically monitored home detention since his arrest three years ago, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Damm has said in court that DeSage owned a 40,000-square-foot palace in Lebanon and more than $10 million in real estate holdings.

According to DeSage’s website, he was born into a “prestigious family” in Lebanon, educated in France, and worked for UNESCO for some time.

His website also says he is a “philanthropist” with a “noble character” and a “true example to all of us.”

DeSage has not been active on his Twitter account since Jan. 22, 2014, where he described himself as being “proud” of his Lebanese heritage. He also mentions he is a “father of seven children.”

Billionaire pays Lebanese teen $100k to skip college

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — Move over, Mark Zuckerburg.

The billionaire co-founder of Paypal, Peter Thiel, has pledged $100,000 to a Lebanese teen for choosing to skip college.

18-year-old Jihad Kawas will receive the six-figure stipend and an elite group of mentors over the next two years — to participate in the Theil Foundation’s mission to inspire the next generation of social entrepreneurs.

Thiel founded the program in 2011 with the belief that college discourages students from being innovators and leaves them in piles of student debt.

Kawas applied to the program, along with 2,800 other applicants, and was accepted into the exclusive group of 20 fellows on June 5.

But it’s not all that surprising, considering Kawas started exploring the mobile app industry and launching mobile startups when he was just 13-years-old.

Then in 2013, at 16-years-old, he founded Saily, a social marketplace for people to buy and sell items on their mobile devices.

Meanwhile, in between business deals and marketing campaigns, he was a student at Houssam Eddine Hariri High School in Saida, where he recently graduated.

But Kawas felt school was obstructing — not advancing — his innovative aspirations. And that’s why he chose to skip college and focus on his growing businesses.

“We should spend less time learning about how things work, and spend more time making things work,” Kawas said during a TEDx talk in Beirut in February. “(School) does not relate to our interests and does not make us better at what we’re good at.”

Thiel, who has a net worth of $2.2 billion, agrees.

“Nothing forces us to funnel students into a tournament that bankrupts the losers and turns the winners into conformists,” Thiel wrote in The Washington Post. “But that’s what will happen until we start questioning whether college is our only option.”

Today, Thiel Fellows have raised over $142 million in venture capital and created at least $41 million in revenue.

Jihad Kawas is well on his way.

WATCH Jihad’s talk, “Why School is Not Ready for Us,” at TEDx Beirut:

Abu Dhabi police buy $3.4M ‘Furious 7’ car from Lebanese company

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — Abu Dhabi police recently purchased the $3.4 million Lykan HyperSport — the same vehicle that appears in the movie ‘Furious 7’ — from Lebanese car company W. Motors.

The Lykan HyperSport is a 770-horsepower supercar that can go from 0 to 100 kilometers/hour in just 2.8 seconds. The model is officially limited to 7 units, making it one of the most expensive cars in the world.

29-year-old Lebanese businessman Ralph Debbas is the mastermind behind the car, which was first launched at the International Qatar Motor Show in 2013. His company, W. Motors, was founded in Beirut in 2012.

“It is a satisfaction and pride to drive it around Dubai and see all heads turn in its direction when it hits the highway,” Debbas told Abu Dhabi’s The National newspaper. “People are starting to notice it more and more on the roads. They step aside to admire it and to take pictures.”

Lebanese-born businessman Ralph Debbas is the creator of the Lykan HyperSport. (Photo: Dubai Autodrome)

The Lykan HyperSport became internationally-known after appearing in ‘Furious 7’ as a vaulted supercar owned by an Arab billionaire. Actors Vin Diesel and Paul Walker manage to escape security and drive through a window at the Ethiad Towners in Abu Dhabi in the film.

“The producers and stunt coordinators needed a car that was really different from the ones used in all the previous Fast and Furious movies, something that they don’t see everyday,” Debbas added.

WATCH the Lykan HyperSport in ‘Furious 7’:

The Lykan features a holographic display with interactive motion and tactile interaction. LED headlights are made up of a Titanium blade encrusted with diamonds and the taillights with sapphires. A 24-hour concierge service is also available.

It is also the first car to have headlights with embedded jewels containing titanium LED blades with 15-carat diamonds, although the buyer has a selection of rubies, diamonds, and sapphires to be integrated into the vehicle’s headlights.

Critics are questioning why Abu Dhabi police would need a $3.4 million police car. But reports say Abu Dhabi police are envious of Dubai’s fleet of supercars, like a Ferrari FF, Bugatti Beyron, and Lamborghini Gallardo.

WATCH the reveal of Abu Dhabi’s new supercar:

When you’re uber-rich, why not?

Take that, Dubai.

President Obama honors Lebanese entrepreneur

(WASHINGTON, DC) — U.S. President Barack Obama honored Lebanese entrepreneur Ziad Sankari for creating innovative heart technology during a White House global entrepreneurship event on May 11.

The White House invited emerging entrepreneurs from around the world to highlight the importance of investing in young businesspeople and innovative solutions. Sankari was among only five others who were honored.

Sankari started CardioDiagnostics in 2012, several years after losing his father to a heart attack. He pursued studies in understanding the electrical activity of the heart and how monitoring and analyzing that activity can save lives.

Today, his company uses FDA-approved wearable devices that are 24/7 GPS-enabled heart rate monitors allowing for heart monitoring centers to communicate diagnostic and preventive information to patients in the United States and Lebanon. The center has more than 40 employees.

In 2008, Sankari attended Ohio State University on a U.S. Fulbright scholarship. After returning to Lebanon, he was selected to pitch his idea at the 2011 Global Innovation through Science and Technology’s (GIST) Tech-I competition where he won first place.

Sankari received his first round of seed funding and traveled through various U.S. cities to expand his network, learn how to negotiate, and connect with mentors. Given his experiences, Sankari sees education as essential to successful entrepreneurship and to combat rising issues of poverty and extremism.

He hopes to support other startups and build a high-performing educational system in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East that leverages U.S. expertise and connections to open a world of opportunities to younger generations.

The event comes ahead of the President’s travel to this summer’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya and provides a unique opportunity to galvanize global attention on emerging women and young entrepreneurs.

Guest speakers during the event included Shark Tank stars Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, and Daymond John. The White House also named nine other top American entrepreneurs as Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship, according to a news release.

WATCH President Obama recognize Sankari:

ArabNet conference highlights creative arts in Beirut

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — ArabNet Beirut, Lebanon’s three-day festival of digital creativity, e-business, and entrepreneurship, is back for its 6th edition.

More than 80 elite speakers and 700 attendees will convene in Beirut on March 17-19 to share international and regional perspectives on e-commerce, digital media, and innovation.

ArabNet Beirut will tackle the growing role of banks in the entrepreneur ecosystem, including entrepreneurship opportunities in the MENA region.

It will also host seminars that will teach video production for the web, online customer service, fashion, and entertainment.

“Lebanon is a key regional hub for digital business and entrepreneurship,” said Omar Christidis, founder and CEO of ArabNet. “This is evident by the interest that major global companies have taken in investing and acquiring Lebanese web sites and apps.”

Christidis said the recent acquisition of Lebanese company Shahiya.com by a Japanese company for $13.5 million is a small example of the potential for digital entrepreneurship.

The conference is held in collaboration with the Central Bank of Lebanon, Choueiri Group, BankMed, and The Beirut Digital District.

Speakers include several Beirut-based digital entrepreneurs and e-commerce experts, including chief officers of Souq.com, the largest e-commerce site in the Arab world.

The ArabNet TechFair will see more than 40 companies and start-ups from Lebanon and the Levant region showcasing their investment offerings.

For more information about ArabNet Beirut, visit arabnet.me.

The ArabNet Beirut conference will attract 700 digital professionals and entrepreneurs for a three-day networking and e-learning event. (Photo by Natheer Halawani)
The ArabNet Beirut conference will attract 700 digital professionals and entrepreneurs for a three-day networking and e-learning event. (Photo by Natheer Halawani)

9 Reasons to Invest in Lebanon

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — At the heart of the Middle East and the crossroads of three continents, Lebanon is where the East meets the West.

A convergence point of trade routes for thousands of years and a unique cultural and religious melting pot, The Land of the Alphabet is rising again as a regional and international hub for trade, finance, services, culture, and tourism.

In addition to a free-market economy based on a long tradition of government-supported liberalism, a sophisticated banking system, a developed legal framework, a superbly skilled workforce, and an exceptional lifestyle, Lebanon offers a large number of investment opportunities in all sectors of the Lebanese national economy.

IDAL, the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon, is the sole public agency responsible for promoting investments in Lebanon, identifying and marketing opportunities, guiding international companies to establish prime business positions, and assisting investors in accessing a wealth of untapped economic potential.

Here are your top 9 reasons to invest in Lebanon:

1. Strategic Geographical Location

Lebanon’s location on the crossroads of three continents — Europe, Asia, and Africa – has long influenced the tiny Mediterranean country’s unique cultural and economic history. Drawing on unique interactions with Babylonians, Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, and Turks, Lebanese economic traditions have urbanized into a unique liberal position at the center of the Eastern Mediterranean.

2. Free Market Economy

Based on a long tradition of liberal investment policies, free enterprise and private initiative are the drivers of the Lebanese economy. Lebanon also boasts a strong laissez-faire commercial tradition.

3. Liberal Financial Environment

With a free foreign exchange market, full currency convertibility policies, and no restrictions on the inward or outward movement of capital, Lebanon has an ideal banking structure for conducting business in the MENA region.

4. Untapped Investment Opportunities

Lebanon offers investors a wide array of investment opportunities in all sectors of the economy, especially in tourism, agriculture, and energy. Furthermore, Lebanon represents a point of entry to a large regional market.

5. Moderate Tax Rates

With maximum tax rates of 15% for companies and 20% for individuals, Lebanon’s fiscal charges are among the most moderate worldwide.

6. Qualified and Competitive Workforce

Lebanon’s workforce is well educated and multi-talented. Skilled labor is widely available, yet at moderate fees. According to the World Bank, 70% of the population generates an annual income of less than USD 10,000.

7. New and Expanding Infrastructure

With state-of-the-art telecommunications, expanding port facilities, and an ambitious road rehabilitation program, Lebanon’s infrastructure is quickly becoming one of the best in the region. Poor mobile communication systems allow for economic possibilities to grow the emerging market.

8. Unique Living Environment

Thousands of years of history, optimal climatic conditions, a very rich culture, and a vibrant nightlife justify Lebanon’s “Pearl of the East” surname.

9. Facilities and services for Investors

The Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL) is one of the most comprehensive programs in the MENA region which aim to retain investments in Lebanon. IDAL’s “One-Stop-Shop” Service offers investors a fast and seamless way to obtain the official permits and licenses needed to implement their projects.

For more information about investment opportunities in Lebanon, visit investinlebanon.gov.lb.

Lebanon’s winter season attracting more tourists this year

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — Lebanese Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon reports that tourism numbers in Lebanon increased in January 2015 by 22.6 percent compared to January 2014.

Pharaon says this year’s heavy snowfall has made for a good skiing season, which is a main attraction for foreign tourists.

“We hope to be able to maintain such an improvement in the number of visitors in February, especially since the skiing season is successful this winter and prices of tickets to Lebanon have dropped lately,” Pharaon said.

Middle East Airlines reduced its former fuel surcharge from 15 percent to 7.5 percent, after the recent drop in oil prices.

The statement said that the number of Arab visitors reached 34,734 during January 2015, showing an increase of 38.4 percent compared with January 2014. The majority of tourists came from Iraq, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

The statement added that visitors from Europe and the United States increased this month by 13.9 percent and 16 percent, respectively. France, Germany, and British visitors were most common, according to the report.

Visitors from the United States made up 14.9 percent of total tourists during January.

The Ministry reports that there were 90,784 tourists in January 2015, compared with last year’s 70,090.

Winter sports in Lebanon are becoming more in demand due to the close geographical location of the mountain peaks from the Mediterranean sea. Lebanese winter sports include alpine skiing and cross country in addition to paragliding, snowmobiling, and hiking.

There are more than six ski resorts in the country.

Lebanese family become billionaires by opening Zara stores

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — The Lebanese Daher family have become billionaires by opening 55 fashion and lifestyle brands in 14 countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Daher brothers — Wassim, Said, and Hasan — own Azadea Group, a Beirut-based company that own and manage 600 retail outlets, including Max Mara, Sunglass Hut, Massimo Dutti, and Zara, among others.

Azadea’s largest collection of stores are in mega malls in the United Arab Emirates, which is the company’s most profitable country, according to a former Azadea senior executive.

The company employs 11,000 people and the brothers are estimated to have a fortune of at least $1.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Wassim Daher founded the company in 1978 as a multi-brand clothing store in Hamra Beirut. His brother Hasan and Said later joined the company as managing director and chief executive, respectively.

Said Daher says the company grew rapidly when it began exclusively purchasing and opening “already-successful” franchises in the Middle East.

“You can grow much faster as a franchise than if you’re operating your own brand. With a franchise, you’re implementing already-successful business models,” he told Beirut-based Executive Magazine in a 2005 interview. “Why bother establishing a vertically integrated business model which will take you years and years to perfect when you can get involved at the end of the supply chain and start opening outlets in promising markets in a matter of months?”

Lebanese businessman Said Daher, the CEO of Azadea Group, signs with Mall of Arabia to open series of fashion outlets. (Photo ©  Rana Moghabghab)
Lebanese businessman Said Daher, the CEO of Azadea Group, signs with Mall of Arabia to open series of fashion outlets. (Photo © Rana Moghabghab)

In 2011, the Daher brothers opened the Azadea Foundation, an environmental NGO in Lebanon, which is financed exclusively by Azadea board members and employees.

The Azadea Foundation is credited with the restoration of the 107-year-old René Mouawad Sanayeh Garden, the city’s biggest 22,000 square meter public garden, which underwent a $2.5 million makeover.

Azadea Foundation also planted over 8,500 trees in three plantation projects in the woodlands of Lebanon. The group plans to spread environmental awareness in school workshops and “Green Booths” in Beirut malls.

Meanwhile, the Azadea Group continues to grow, and the brothers say they will remain committed to Lebanon.

In January, Bloomberg reported that two Dubai-based companies were reportedly set to bid for a 25 percent stake in Azadea Group. The bids by KKR & Co, Fajr Capital, and Majid Al Futtaim Holdings are currently in the second round of bidding for the Lebanese company.

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