July - September 2000
Office and Retail Space
New business and retail activities are establishing themselves in Beirut city center, adding to its commercial life. Virgin Megastore has taken a twelve-year lease in the Opera building in Martyrs' Square. The Megastore offers a variety of CDs, videos, DVDs, books and multimedia software. The Beirut store, also including a restaurant and coffee shop, is expected to open in summer 2001.

Transmed company, agent of Procter & Gamble Middle East, has acquired building 225 on Foch street, to be used as its headquarters.

New international brands include Versace for Lebanon and the Middle East, opening in November in the Farra building on Allenby street; and Mont Blanc in the Stephan building on Weygand street.

Zeidan Jewelers, George  Hakim and Har-men Jewelers, Vienna shoes and the Atrium Café are joining Cercle Hitti Roche Bobois on the ground floor of the Atrium building. On the upper floors, Comeca France provides consulting and Fares Ltd (Sydney) real estate services. American Express, Bank of New York and Merrill Lynch are also taking up offices there.

Final decoration works by CCF Finance M.O. (Crédit Commercial de France Finance Middle East) prepare for its imminent move to the Riszkallah building in the Foch-Allenby area. Banque Européenne pour le Moyen-Orient (BEMO) has rented a floor in the Asseily building or Riad El Solh Square, where Bankers' Assurance is moving its headquarters. Al Mashrek Insurance is developing a recently acquired plot of land in Saifi. 34 banks and 12 insurance companies are now established in Beirut city center. Among regional and international financial institutions, the Arab Stock Exchange Federation, relocating from Cairo to Beirut, is taking up its base in the Starco building by year-end.

Librairie Antoine bookshop has also opened in Starco, bringing to four the number of downtown bookstores.

Italy is in fashion in Beirut city center. New Italian restaurants are II Parlamento restaurant on Maarad street, and Coppadelio, with an outdoor terrace, in the Lazarieh building on Emir Bechir street. Shogun is a Japanese restaurant in Maarad street, and Balthus a French restaurant in the Ghandour building on Zeytoune street. Other French restaurants being established downtown include Lina's Sandwiches at street level, in SOLIDERE's building I48 in the Foch-Allenby area.

The city center counts seven airline companies. Newcomers include Kuwait Airways in the Arab Bank building on Riad El Solh Square, and Royal Jordanian Airlines in the Jordan National Bank building on Weygand street.

Other trading and service companies include The Repro House, specialized in pre-press production, which operates from its Lazarieh  building premises. In building 224 in the Foch-Allenby area, Cynergie s.a.l offers hospitality services, Gilbert Khoury information technology, and Karim Fallaha fuel and industrial equipment.

In parallel to the revival of commercial and institutional activity, Beirut city center is witnessing the emergence and re-emergence of residential neighborhoods.
Living in the City Center
SOLIDERE's housing supply is meeting with success, despite the general economic slowdown. This suggests the existence of a pent-up demand for the type of products it is offering: a range of apartments of various size, in new or restored buildings, combining contextual architecture with modern comfort and security, elegant interiors and high-quality finishing.

The 66 apartments booked to this date in Saifi Village (cover and top right), represent 56% of the total floor space. This 30,000-sq m cluster development is quickly progressing towards delivery, starting year-end.

Another 47 apartments have been leased or sold by the Company in its restored buildings, in Saifi and Zokak El Blatt. They represent 7800 sq m, 94% of the restored residential space available by year-end.

Alternative residential products are being created in various areas by other developers. Two developments in Park Boulevard will offer views on the sea, the waterside park and the city center. Initially intended as an office block, the Park View Realty project (middle right) has seen its design changed to residential use, in response to market demand. The Karim Fahmi Karagulla project commands the important corner of Park boulevard and Park avenue. The Marina Towers development, jointly designed with the Four Seasons hotel, will have access to the Beirut Marina.
SOLIDERE shares were actively traded during this quarter, as prices reached six-month highs of US$8 1/4 for share and US$8 5/8 for share B.

Profit taking pulled the shares slightly lower towards the end of the quarter. Share A closed at US$71/2, at the same level as the second quarter closing; while share B closed at US$73/8, representing a 6.3% decrease compared to the previous quarter closing price. The breadth of the market remained negative, with sell volume outnumbering buy volume by a 9 to 4 ratio.