In 2000, when Iulian Dascălu opened Iulius Mall in Iași, with 38,000 squared meters and 210 shops, there was only one other similar mall in Romania, Bucharest Mall, owned by the Turkish Anchor Grup.
The businessman sensed the potential of this kind of business and, with the help of funds from rents, but also through quite large bank loans, continued to expand.
One at a time, malls were opened under the same brand in Timișoara (2005, extended in stages up to 178,000 squared meters), Cluj Napoca (2007, 147,000 squared meters, including Class-A office space) and Suceava (2008, 70,000 squared meters).
But the crown jewel is the Palas multifunctional complex in Iași, that opened in 2012 after a € 265 million investment. Palas, located downtown, behind the Palace of Culture, has 27,000 meters of shops, restaurants, office space, relaxation and entertainment areas, but also hotels and apartments.
“It’s an investment for the whole region of Moldavia, at a distance of a two-hour drive, so also for Chișinău. We are now convinced that a lot of people from Moldova know our project,” explained Dascălu when the mall was opened.
A huge transaction
Iulian Dascălu graduated two faculties, Finance-Accounting, and Economics and Business management, respectively. This could partly explain the way in which the entrepreneur has managed, throughout the years, to juggle with projects worth tens and hundreds of millions of euro and loans up to nine-figures, even in times less fortunate for the local economy.
In 2017, the businessman sold half of the shares of the four Iulius malls to South-african Atterbury. The exact amount of the transaction is not disclosed, but most experts seem to concur that it would have been over € 100 million.
Others might have taken the money and gone on a tropical island, spending their time collecting dividends from the rest of 50% of the stock. In 2017, for example, companies that manage the four Iulius malls increased their new sales by 10%, up to RON 246 million. True, their net profit fell to “a mere” RON 63 million (compared to RON 145 million in 2016). However, according to representatives of Dascălu’s Iulius Group, “operating profit (EBITDA) rose by 17% in 2017 compared to 2016.
Net profit dropped due to the impact of exchange rate adjustments corresponding to the contracted loans.” Overall, the average occupancy rate of the four centers is excellent, of about 95-96%.
In 2018, the entrepreneur continued the investment in Timişoara, after completing, in 2017, two of the seven Class-A office buildings that will be included in the Openville complex at the end of the two development phases. The buildings have 31,000 sqm for rent and the tenants are only companies in the IT, automotive, and outsourcing sectors.
Also in the Openville complex, in the spring of 2018 the more than €12.6 million investment was finalized in the first multi-storey car park in Timişoara, with over 910 park places. Furthermore, this spring, construction works have started for a new underground car park, with over 580 parking places, a new underground car tunnel, and UBC 0, to be the tallest office building in Romania (155 meters and 27 storey-high). UBC 0 will have 52,000 sqm for rent for offices, shops and resturants in semi-basement and on the ground floor, and 7 conference rooms for corporate events on the first floor.
Also this year, the retail component of the Openville complex was considered, that will extend Iulius Mall’s commercial space by 47,000 sqm. Besides new brands and larger shops of retailers that are already operating in the mall, the new building will include 3 large event rooms, and the first kindergarten and elementary school in Timişoara teaching exclusively in English, after a British curriculum.
Over the past years, it is obvious that Dascălu focused on office projects to the detriment of commercial ones. No wonder, as he has stated several times that the mall market is almost saturated.
And the new focus led the businessman to owning office buildings with a total 121,000 sqm for rent at the end of 2017, placing him fifth in a national top from this point of view. And if the Openville project will unfold as expected, another 100,000 sqm of office space will appear, taking Dascălu most likely to the third place country-wise and the first place among Romanian office space owners.