An empty plot of sand in Dubai just sold for $34 million

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A fashion entrepreneur has made a 242% profit on a lot of sand which he has simply held onto for two years.

British fashion boss Umar Kamani, formerly the CEO at online retailer PrettyLittleThing, bought the empty 24,500-square-foot plot on Dubai’s artificial island of Jumeriah Bay two years ago.

Despite leaving it undeveloped, demand for space on the island is now so high that the package of land Kamani paid just under $10 million for has now sold for $34 million, giving him a profit of $24 million before fees.

The island is seahorse-shaped, connected to the mainland with a single bridge, and packed with luxury resorts and retail, a yacht marina and a seven-star hotel.

Kamani’s land—which had a record-breaking sale of 125 million dirhams—is around half the size of a standard football field, which is around 57,600 square feet.

The British entrepreneur has been building his property portfolio since the sale of his 34% stake in PrettyLittleThing in 2020, a transaction reportedly worth £330 million (about $410 million) giving him £161 million in cash.

The unnamed buyer of the land, who doesn’t live in the United Arab Emirates, has reportedly purchased it to build a family vacation home.

Knight Frank, the brokerage that settled the deal, said the 5,000 dirhams per square foot was a new high and marked a departure from typical property sales.

“It’s 125 million for sand,” Andrew Cummings, head of prime residential at Knight Frank in Dubai told Bloomberg. “Everything that’s been making the press has predominantly been spectacular villas, it’s been incredible penthouses and all this stuff. But this is just a massive record breaker for a land plot.”

Brokers on the deal added that prices have been further inflated by a lack of beach-front plot availability, as well as new demographics of customers emerging.

Katie Burnell, associate director at Savills Middle East, based in Dubai, previously told the BBC that Dubai’s 36% spike in rental costs is predominantly down to an influx in Russian customers.

She said: “There are a lot of restrictions on Russians on where they can reside or buy property. They face no such problems in the UAE. Here they have been able to do business and operate financially.

“Because of this convenience, they are really not focusing on the price point in the property market and are willing to pay the price.”

Knight Frank’s Lyndsey Redstone added to Bloomberg: “Sellers are in quite a strong position at the moment to dictate where the prices are, because there are such limited options available for people to choose from.”

The mega mansions of Jumeriah Bay Island

Only 128 plots were originally offered on the island by government-backed developer Meraas Holding, with stipulations that the land couldn’t be divided to create more homes.

The aim may have been to avoid more dense building in Dubai, as seen in the nearby Palm Jumeirah development.

However Cummings added that the rules don’t extend to combining plots, meaning customers lucky enough to get their hands on adjoining parcels of land can build giant homes.

Luckily for the new owner of Kamani’s land—that could be an option.

The fashion mogul, whose father Mahmud Kamani co-founded online retailer Boohoo in 2006, also owns the identical plot of land beside the lot he just sold.

He reportedly plans to sell it for 135 million dirhams, worth $36.7 million.

The new developments join a list of many waiting to break ground, with vast swathes of the island still resembling a beach.

Among the new builds will be the Bulgari Lighthouse tower, with the top penthouse in the branded residence block already selling for 410 million dirhams (just over $111 million) in February.

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