* Dubai's developer plans distressed debt funds
* Deyaar funds to be up to $272 mln
* Sees Dubai property recovery towards end of 2010
By John Irish
DUBAI, April 27 Dubai real estate developer Deyaar DEYR.DU will launch a series of funds of up to 1 billion dirhams ($272.3 million) to buy distressed debt, including its own, as it looks to boost returns for shareholders, its chief executive said.
Markus Giebel said on Monday there would be a series of funds operated by its new unit Deyaar Fund Management and was close to raising the first 500 million dirham fund to buy its own distressed assets.
"These funds have three benefits ... to stabilise Dubai, take distressed assets from Deyaar's balance sheet and bring some good returns for our shareholders," Giebel told Reuters in a telephone interview on Monday.
Real estate prices in Dubai have slumped since the global financial crisis brought to an end a regional economic boom late last year.
The downturn has prompted Dubai developers to cancel scores of expansion projects and led to thousands of job cuts in Dubai, raising the risk of home loan defaults as the global financial crisis hit the Gulf Arab trade hub's once-booming property sector.
Its first 500 million dirham fund is about 60-70 percent subscribed by a mix of local and overseas investors and would buy back properties on which investors have defaulted from Deyaar's own portfolio, Giebel said.
Deyaar will rent out the units to provide cash flow for the company before selling them once the Dubai property market recovers, he said.
"The next one (fund) will be immediately after ... we will go outside (Deyaar) and do funds between 500 million dirhams to 1 billion dirhams as smaller funds are more targeted and guarantee returns for investors," Giebel said.
In February, Deyaar, of which almost 41 percent is owned by Dubai Islamic Bank DISB.DU, announced that it was putting at least a quarter of its projects on hold after the financial crisis hit Dubai.
But Dubai's second-largest developer by market value, which manages 16,000 commercial and residential properties worldwide, said on Sunday it planned to deliver seven projects in the UAE in 2009 despite challenging market conditions.
Deyaar posted a 73 percent decline in first-quarter net profit to 54.48 million dirhams as the global financial crisis hit the property sector.
"If you have a fire in the middle of Los Angeles you cannot compare before and after," Giebel said on the Q1 profit slump, adding the new landscape was more comparable to 2007 than last year.
Giebel said he expected 2009 would remain tough with recovery only beginning towards the end of of next year.
"It can get worse ... we believe 2009 will be a downturn, 2010 will be at the bottom somewhere and end 2010, 2011 there will be a recovery," Giebel said. (Editing by David Cowell)