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Is Beirut really top city for international real estate investment?

File - Construction sites are seen in downtown Beirut, Thursday, March 6, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Lebanon is again on the radar of potential investors following a report carried by CNN Money that ranked Beirut among the best real estate investment destinations in the world on its list of “Up and Coming Cities For the Rich.”

But this report, which was prepared by Savills World Research, Candy & Candy and Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management, received mixed reactions from economists and businessmen.

Louis Hobeika, professor of economics and finance at Notre Dame University, and economist Ghazi Wazni were skeptical of the report.

“This report is inaccurate and does not reflect the reality. ... This report is aimed at giving publicity to and promoting the real estate sector in Lebanon and nothing else,” Hobeika told The Daily Star.

The CNN report said, “Despite its violent history, Beirut stands out as being an ideal place for adventurous investors, according to a new report from Savills World Research, Candy & Candy and Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management.

“Yes, there has been some recent spillover from the ongoing Syrian conflict. But the Mediterranean coastal city is known for its culture and nightlife, which attracts a young population,” CNN Money quoted Savills World Research director Yolande Barnes as saying.

“Real estate in the city still looks very cheap by international standards,” Barnes told CNN.

According to CNN, prices for two-bedroom apartments in Beirut ranged from $180,000 to $500,000, depending on the location.

Hobeika insisted that the report was misleading if not just wrong.

“Some agencies may have a vested interest in releasing such reports and studies. Contrary to this report, there are hundreds of vacant apartments in Beirut,” he said.

Echoing similar views, Wazni said that the assessment was not very convincing.

“I don’t think this report will have any impact on the real estate sector in Lebanon. I don’t expect people to line up to buy properties here,” he added.

Wazni suggested that real estate brokers and developers may have been behind the work.

“Any investors who want to come to Lebanon will take into account any political and security conditions. They also take into consideration the price of properties,” he said.

Experts agree that the property prices have reached alarming levels over the past few years.

“The average price per square meter in Beirut is $4,000. You won’t find cheaper than this price in the capital,” Wazni said.

However, the president of Beirut Traders Association saw a glimmer of hope in this report.

“Once again, the investors have put Lebanon on the radar screen. But I would have preferred to see a comprehensive report that covers all aspects of life in Lebanon,” Nicolas Chammas said.

Chammas said it would have been better if the report had also addressed the business climate, cost of living and quality of life, human resources and universities.

He added attention should have been paid to the productive sectors such as industry and agriculture.

Cape Town, South Africa was also included on the list, as was Tel Aviv.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 11, 2014, on page 5.

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Summary

Lebanon is again on the radar of potential investors following a report carried by CNN Money that ranked Beirut among the best real estate investment destinations in the world on its list of "Up and Coming Cities For the Rich".

Louis Hobeika, professor of economics and finance at Notre Dame University, and economist Ghazi Wazni were skeptical of the report.

The CNN report said, "Despite its violent history, Beirut stands out as being an ideal place for adventurous investors, according to a new report from Savills World Research, Candy & Candy and Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management.

Hobeika insisted that the report was misleading if not just wrong.


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