Carlos Leal

Carlos Leal

General Director, United Investments Portugal

Real Estate & Construction / Portugal

“High end properties, guaranteed returns”

Why is the Golden Visa scheme one of the best immigration programmes in the market today?

It’s transparent and relatively quick to get. Within 6-8 weeks you have your visa. And unlike other programmes like Spain, it allows you to include your children over 18 as long as they are dependent on you. Some of our owners bought an apartment but they got 6 golden visas because they brought their children and parents. Another advantage is that Portugal stipulates the minimum period you have to stay in the country, but no maximum. If you buy a house you can live here.

How is Algarve commercialised nowadays internationally?

Algarve has always been branded as a tourist destination outside of Portugal and not necessarily as a real estate investment destination. Regarding the golden visas, the Algarve still has a very small market share compared to Lisbon. In 2013, we had 80% of the golden visas in Algarve, which represented close to 15% nationally.

How do you explain the success of Pine Cliffs?

The success has many drivers. We have products that are pure real estate and products that offer a minimum return on investment guarantee. We have the Sheraton brand, which in Chinese is Shi Li Dun, probably the hotel brand with the biggest expansion at the moment in China.

Our cheapest property starts at €780,000. The first properties to sell were the ones in the €950,000 range. That’s a 3-bedroom apartment. Our buyers enjoy the tennis and the golf of the infrastructure. They come back because of the lifestyle and the package that we offer. In fact, we even offer butler services in our villas. You just have to tell us what you want.

Which one of your products has met the preference of the Chinese customers so far?

The residences with the guaranteed return, unquestionably. It’s headache-free and a 5% net return on your investment pre-tax. We’ve got local lawyers and tax-consultants, which our clients can work with if they want to. We can also open bank accounts. We get the local bank managers to come here and open the bank account for the client.

To maintain their golden visa, the owners need a 5-year programme. So during that 5-year term, owners can comply with their minimum one-week a year stay with no costs. They get a return of 5% per annum on the purchase price of their property. When they want to come here, they just make their reservations. Their apartment is made up and the amenities are put in. It’s like being in a hotel.

Do you have other projects in the Algarve?

As UIP, we’ve got a 400 ha property in the Algarve. We plan a resort with 18-hole called Gary Player golf course, a health spa and boutique hotel. It will focus on health and wellbeing. All our properties have to be unique. What will make it unique? For example, we produce our own honey and olive trees. Part of our golf course will be lined with olive and orange trees.

What kind of group is United Investments Portugal?

UIP is a Kuwaiti capital investment and belongs to IFA, quoted in the Kuwaiti stock exchange. Activities are diversified: investment, international asset management, and development. We have investments in the Dom Pedro Hotels Group as well as in financial institutions. We have an international division with YOTEL, a hotel brand in New York and San Francisco.

Are you open to possible partnerships with China?

We have been approached to develop in China. The YOTEL will open a new unit in Singapore at the end of 2015. This brand can also be a great concept for China. YOTEL is a very trendy yuppie hotel that has got limited services. It’s 5-star limited services, it’s more about the experience than having big rooms and gold-plated taps. For example, there is no porter service but a robot that comes and picks up your case. It is a futuristic experience. We are in talks with a potential partner to start a Yotel in Shanghai. We also met with a developer that would like to replicate Pine Cliffs in Hainan.