An initiative with a $ 325 million envelope in a first stage, targeting Lebanese expatriates and in line with the CEDRE Conference requirements and the national economic plan
Legacy One, a new investment platform in the Lebanese real estate sector, was launched yesterday at the Beirut International Exhibition & Leisure Center (BIEL) in Sin El-Fil- Beirut, on the initiative of Namir Cortas and Massaad Fares, under the patronage of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, represented by MP RolaTabch Jaroudi, in the presence of former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, the President of the Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL), Joseph Torbey, and with the participation of former Minister Yassine Jaber, the President of the Lebanese Economic Organizations, Mohammed Choucair, Lucid Investment Bank represented by its CEO Wael Zein, the Japanese Ambassador to Lebanon, as well as the representative of the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia Walid Al-Bukhari and representatives of the Embassy of Iran and India, representatives of the Ministers of Finance, Foreign Affairs and Labor, the Vice-Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, Saad Andari, alongside a number of bankers, real estate developers, investors and representatives of news agencies and international and local media.
During the event, Legacy One Chairman, Mr. Namir Cortas, stated that this initiative came after a steady decline in the Lebanese real estate market, in general, and in the luxury apartments market in the Greater Beirut area, in particular, and in the light of the economic and social repercussions of the situation in Syria and Yemen, and the declining purchasing power in most countries of the Lebanese diaspora.
He added that “Real estate developers are ready today to offer incentive rates and to invest in a creative and viable initiative aimed at carefully selecting apartments by a highly-experienced team”.
He further explained that promising markets have been scouted in Africa and in Australia, and that the Lebanese expatriates in these communities are interested in buying properties in their country but are hesitant because of the delays in transactions, postponement of deadlines, failure to honor pledges and a decline in the level of trust. Therefore, “we have focused our attention on cooperating with a large number of banks, and on receiving the Capital Markets Authority’s approval to market shares and bonds for Legacy One and that is what actually happened”.
For his part, Massaad Fares, Legacy Central Chairman, said that the crisis in the real estate sector is taking over more than seventy professions and related sectors, and pointed that the encouragement and support of the Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon to proceed with this initiative was the catalyst behind the creation of this fund which aim is to revitalize the sale and purchase market of apartments in Greater Beirut, at first, and in all Lebanese regions, in a later stage.
Fares said that an extensive market surveywhich was conducted in Latin America, Africa, Australia, North America, Europe and Canada, showedthat the Lebanese expatriates who left Lebanon between 1975 and 2000 were still in contact with their homeland, have detailed information on the real estate market, visitLebanon on regular basis and are waiting for theopportunity to own a property there.
“The challenge for us”, he continued, “was to have a wide and varied selection of apartments across multiple price, areas and regions categories, and to deliverbuyers an immediate title deed, without any delay or constraint, which led us to make an exhaustive inventory of all completed buildings in Greater Beirut, so as to be able to make purchases after a three step-process that starts withan initial review by the marketing, engineering, law and management teams, followed by the review and approval of the Independent Investment Committee in a second step, and finally the supervision of the Legacy One platform’s Board of Directors”.
Lucid Investment Bank
Wael Zein, Chairman of Lucid Investment Bank, explained that the bank was responsible for financing and overseeing the investment platform. To this end, it was necessary to obtain the Capital Markets Authority’s approval to marketpriority shares valued at $75 millionfor qualified Lebanese investors as of the eve of the launch of the platform and $250 million in bonds targeting banks, for a total portfolio of $325 million.
“We have developed a comprehensive governance system”, he said, “both for the Board of Directors and the investment committee, as well as for the investment memoranda for shares and debt bonds which clearly define shareholders’ equity. We were also keen to provide good governance and financial supervision to ensure full compliance with the applicable regulations and circulars”.
Mohammed Alam, representing Alem and Associates law firm, presented the various stages of the project and explained that it meets all legal standards and requirements.
For his part, the President of the Lebanese Economic Organizations, Mohammed Choucair, said that the organizations will support this initiative, “especially as this platform will contribute in part to address the very complex crisis of the real estate sector which is profoundly affecting the national economy in all its components”.
Choucair stressed that the crisis is revealing itself through the stagnation of sales and the almost total halt of investments, as well as the suspension of subsidized loans and the troubled loansof banks, amounting to over $ 18 billion.
“But who cares on the other side?” he asked. “What we see and hear from political forces that are competing for ministerial portfolios reveals that Lebanese and politicians are living in two different worlds”.
He concluded by strongly urging that”a government be quickly formed, one that that would be a creative initiative, reflecting the image of the private sector and the Lebanese citizen”.
“This initiative could help alleviate the real estate crisis”, said MP Yassine. “No one expects this investment platform to solve all the problems of the real estate sector . Lebanon needs more such initiatives that would help to enhance confidence in the country and its economy”.
“I share the confidence of the founders of this investment platform in the future of Lebanon and its real estate sector”, he continued.
In conclusion, he hoped that “we will soon witness the long-awaited birth of the government … which in the first three months after winning the vote of confidence, must realize that it has to take a series of reform decisions to strengthen the world’s confidence in it and in Lebanon”.
The Prime Minister’s Representative, MP Roula Tabch Jaroudi, said that he had agreed to sponsor this initiative “as a result of his confidence and belief in investments that promote economic growth, which goes in the same line as the government plan and the CEDRE Conference”.
“We hope”, she added, “that this initiative will be an opportunity to achieve broad goals to solve the strugglingreal estate market in Beirut and its surroundings, in order to attract global capital”.
She concluded by stating that this initiative “targets a large portion of the Lebanese living abroad, namely thediaspora, and this is the purpose and the spirit of the company that targets the Lebanese spread all over the world in order to keep them attached to their roots”.