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Working with trailblazers in Dubai: Opportunity of a lifetime

By: Nason Khomassi


 After a demanding first semester, I was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime: an internship at InvestBridge Capital (IBC) in Dubai.  Along with four of my classmates, I spent most of January avoiding the frigid Boston winter working at this premier investment firm.  IBC provides corporate advisory and asset management services to principals and clients in the Middle East and North Africa.

Throughout the internship, we worked closely with senior management on a wide range of exciting real estate projects.  The opportunity to work on a boutique hotel development was the highlight of my experience at IBC.   Our task was to analyze the renderings of the development, research a short list of high-end boutique hotel operators, and develop the Food & Beverage business plan for the project.  IBC plans to make this development a jewel in its portfolio, so we were encouraged to research and propose the best up-and-coming partners in fine dining, nightlife, and entertainment.  Right up my alley.

We were also tasked with writing an offering memorandum for IBCs brand new mezzanine debt fund.    Prior to the global financial crisis, lenders in Dubai would finance real estate development and investment at very high leverage ratios.  After 2008 however, senior lenders became more conservative, providing lower asset valuations and less funding. Decreased senior funding created a significant equity shortfall for real estate developers and investors, providing an excellent opportunity to place capital at very attractive risk adjusted returns.  Identifying the opportunity, IBC created the first real estate mezzanine debt fund in the United Arab Emirates.  Working with trailblazers in the industry was an immensely valuable learning experience.

Aside from the hard work  during regular business hours, the internship was also a perfect opportunity to explore the country and learn about one of the most fascinating real estate markets in the world.  Dubai first made headlines by developing the Burj Al Arab, the world’s first seven-star-hotel, complete with helipad and gold-plated guestroom interiors.  More recently, Dubai developed the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa standing at 2,741 feet and measuring twice as tall as the Empire State Building.  Not only did we visit both properties during our internship, but on our last evening in Dubai, we also had the privilege of enjoying an unforgettable meal at the top of the Burj Khalifa.  A fitting end to a remarkable journey.