DUBAI-Heretofore focused on Dubai, where it has developed $30 billion in real estate, Nakheel is branching out with a hotel and resort investment company. Nakheel CEO James Wilson tells GlobeSt.com the company is investing $600 million over the next 12 to 18 months to jump start the company with eight properties and is planning to have 20 properties within five years.

Nakheel is known for its extraordinary projects off the coast of Dubai including the World, a series of 200 man-made islands in the shape of a map of the world, and the Palm, a three-island development in the shape of a palm tree. The new hotel company’s geographic reach will include the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Russia and the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States).

“We’ll develop and acquire properties and then appoint hotel companies to run them and we’ll act as asset manager; we’re in negotiations with whole range of operators on a country specific basis,” Wilson tells GlobeSt.com. “The strategy of our company is to basically invest in hotels, resorts and residential developments with a multi-brand strategy; it’s a leveraging of the brand and expertise gained in Dubai and taking it internationally.”

The company’s first hotel opens in Djibouti, an Eastern African nation-state bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea between Eritrea and Somalia. Wilson says the 400-room resort will open this November and be operated by Kempinski Hotels.

Nakheel also has engaged with the Trump organization. Wilson says he is working with Ivana and Donald Jr. on an 800-room condo-hotel development that will be the icon of the first Palm Island, Palm Jumeriah. That project is scheduled to break ground in the next two months. The Trump name also will be on a 150-room Boutique Hotel & Spa with 100 private villas and beach condos to be developed on the World.

Nakheel also is closely aligned with publicly held Kerzner, and operator of premier resorts and luxury hotels whose flagship destination is Atlantis, a 2,317-room, ocean-themed resort located on Paradise Island, the Bahamas. Nakheel and Kerzner have formed a JV to develop a casino-free Atlantis on the head of the Palm’s crescent. The 2,000-room resort will feature a 68-acre water theme park. Construction is under way, says Wilson.