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Atconz's ventures build communities while tackling market demand

Article - October 4, 2012
With a mission that is a simple idea but effective in application, the Atconz Group's successful housing and community-building projects highlight the region's potential
DEAN MICHAEL, CHAIRMAN OF ATCONZ
Anyone investing in the Middle East should seriously consider Kurdistan’s potential. It has some of the friendliest private investment laws in the entire region. Some 12,600 private companies are already operating in the region, 13% of which are foreign, and the country has attracted more than $20 billion in investment over the past three years. Economic growth this year is expected to be over 9%, while population growth is currently at 8.1%. The capital city, Erbil, was recently named fifth-best destination for Middle East Cities of the Future by FDI Magazine. In addition, the United Nations Human Settlements Program, UN-Habitat, has suggested that the Kurdistan region needs to construct 14,000 housing units a year to meet the massive shortfall in homes. As such, the region is undergoing a consumer and construction boom.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is functioning with a newfound vision. Nearly 70% of villages in Kurdistan have been rebuilt while real estate value is increasing considerably. Controlled border points allow steady trade between neighboring countries. Cargo terminals at Erbil and Sulaymaniyah airports allow imports from around the world to enter. A planned European fuel pipeline heightens local importance in the global marketplace. Investors work with the Ministry of Construction and Housing to improve roads for agriculture and transport. Rebuilding extends well beyond construction to enhance economic growth.

Atconz is one of the major players in Kurdistan’s real estate and property development sectors. The firm’s mission is simple but extremely effective in application. The group is looking to create and deliver the most secure, valuable assets and solutions to partners in the Iraqi market. They also aim to be the most valuable professional group providing innovative economic models and sustainable market success.

Atconz’s activities span investment, real estate development, oil and gas, trading, consultation and property management. Its groundbreaking work in real estate is transforming the Kurdistan Region’s infrastructure.

“When we started, we started selling at cost or at a loss... Building houses is not enough. You need a community.”

Dean Michael, Chairman of Atconz
Dean Michael, Chairman of Atconz, explains the move toward a more quality-based product. “With 70% of housing rebuilt, we are shifting from quantity demand to quality demand. That is the nature of the people and the market, and how we understand it,” he says.

“We studied the environment and the social demographics of the region first, and we understood that the loyalty of the client is the prize. When we started, we started selling at cost or at a loss because we wanted to establish our credibility... Building houses is not enough. You need a community,” he says.

The group’s 2005 Kurdistan-Iraq market survey resulted in the construction of the new 8 million square foot Azadi residential area north of Erbil. Its architecture was planned and constructed based on interviews with clients and their projected needs.

New Azadi (2009) is a prime example of Atconz’s work, with 2,500 housing units, commercial areas, schools, and a hotel. It is a landmark development due to the materials and construction techniques employed, and the unique services afforded to residents: water treatment plants, a power generation plant and substation, and full-scale facilities management services.

New Azadi’s Phase 1 villas saw a swift sell-out and hand-over earlier this year. Phase 2 villas are 70% sold with an expected handover in early 2013. The production release will take four phases culminating in a $550-million project value and a total living environment.

The Dragon Mall is part of the New Azadi area community. The Asian-themed shopping mall contains 300 shops, 100 warehouses, 100 apartments with all facilities, and a 600-car parking garage – it is the largest steel structure building in Iraq. Dragon Mall is dedicated to Chinese companies and sells products from throughout the Middle East as far as Europe.
Elsewhere, Atconz’s Piroz business hotel runs the upscale side of commerce. Piroz is an integrated business bay, complete with five-star hotel, serviced apartment area, work offices, mall, and fine dining area.

Mr. Michael emphasizes the importance of developing a country by “setting the right economic infrastructure” and how “finance, legal infrastructure and the right know-how” were vital.
BITCO is the trading and procurement arm of the Atconz Group. It is a stronghold of the company’s innovation efforts and a first-class trading business set up in partnership with the Iraqi Ministry of Trade and Baghdad Chamber of Commerce. Together they have joined the Microsoft Partner Network and procured an agreement to operate Microsoft’s Enterprise Resource Planning system. Atconz is the first company in Iraq to employ such software.

U.S. consultants will be particularly interested in Atconz Group’s joint venture investment methods, which allow for the transfer of knowledge, management skills, and professional workmanship.

Atconz has on-the-ground presence in Iraq and key governmental contacts. The group advises on investment security regarding relevant laws and regulations, and physical security that reports on situations on the ground.

Atconz’s methods provide comprehensive solutions for businesses within the Iraqi market, and long-term infrastructure development with the Ministry of Construction and Housing.

“We will give you a fantastic community in a safe environment. We will give you clean roads and electricity 24/7. We believe that quality will prevail. If you have a decent house, you will focus on your community and you will love it. It is safe. This is how we make the difference – we create value,” adds Mr. Michael.

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