AX Real Estates’ diverse portfolio encompasses hospitality, care homes, retirement villages, offices, warehouses, and industrial and residential properties. A subsidiary of AX Group, the company was incorporated in 2019, leveraging the Group’s expertise and resources to own, develop, manage, and acquire real estate investments. Led by CEO Denise Xuereb, AX Real Estate continues its people-centric mission to expand its portfolio and unlock the full potential of Real Estate in Malta.

With a career that has included time as a waitress, animator, administrator, and project manager, today Denise Xuereb regards her role at AX Real Estate as much more than simply that of CEO. “I wouldn’t say I represent a specific role because who I am today goes beyond that,” she says. “My career has been a journey that has never followed a straight path. It’s been a process of evolution. I now wear many different hats and hold various positions and titles across the group – namely Director of Construction and Development within AX Group and CEO at AX Real Estate. I lead businesses, realise projects and guide people towards growing the enterprises to which I have been entrusted.”

The daughter of AX Group Founder Angelo Xuereb, Denise discovered her fascination with buildings and design as a teenager, following in her father’s footsteps to achieve several significant milestones within Malta’s construction industry. After graduating from the University of Malta, she pursued an MSc in Project and Programme Management at the École Supérieure de Commerce in Paris. Her first major project then came when she oversaw the final stages of AX Group’s five-star AX The Palace Hotel in Sliema – a defining moment she describes as the “pivotal shift” in her career.

“Every project we complete is a milestone and feat in its own right, but the completion of AX The Palace in 2008 – for which I coordinated both the hotel and construction offices – marked a turning point for me in terms of project management. Our work on the Parliament building then sealed the envelope as one of the most extensive contemporary construction projects in Valletta. And, since Malta’s stone heritage is very close to my heart, another key moment was the launch of our restoration arm,” she says, pointing to the firm’s landmark restoration projects at St John’s Co-Cathedral and Palazzo Lucia in Valletta, the conversion of The Brewhouse at Farsons in Mrieħel, the rehabilitation of the Maritime Museum in Vittoriosa and the restoration and construction of a Visitor Centre at St Paul’s Catacombs in Rabat. “There have also been so many other milestones of which I’m proud, like relaunching AX Construction in the market as a specialist contractor, bringing AX Real Estate to the market, gaining the unanimous permit for The Verdala Project, and the completion of the ODYCY Hotel project, to name but a few.”

Such dynamic projects demand a dynamic approach, and Denise believes in leading by example. “I must be many different people at various times of the day, but that’s the sort of dynamism I enjoy,” she smiles. “The way I lead and do business is the way I expect others to behave or do business with me. I’m very much a ‘what you see is what you get’ person, and I believe in remaining true to yourself and to the values that are at the core of the business, such as fairness, empathy, integrity, and teamwork. This is not a one-person show. We trust each other and combine our expertise to achieve extraordinary results.”

While trust is integral to Denise’s role, so is the support this team ethos brings, particularly regarding time management. “I manage my diary to the minute, even though I believe that managing time is not as easily accessible as the world assumes. But I have a lot of support – if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here,” she explains, adding that this support is critical to finding a work-life balance, particularly as a parent of two young children. “With a career-dominated life, the lines blur. My biggest passion is my two little girls: they are the ones who manage to stress me out more than work, but they are also the ones to calm me down on the toughest of days.”

In fact, family values are at the heart of AX Group – and thus, at that of its subsidiary, AX Real Estate. The firm manages the group’s long-term property investments and seeks to acquire properties – both already developed or with prospective, strong rental income streams – located in prime locations or those with the potential of becoming so.

AX Real Estate’s property portfolio spans hospitality, care homes, retirement villages, commercial spaces, and residential properties. “Our long-term objective is to grow the number of properties held, diversify the mix of uses of these properties and achieve steady, long-term growth through collaboration with stakeholders and communities for sustainable returns,” Denise highlights. “We listed the company on the Malta Stock Exchange in February 2022. The market was undergoing a very strong shift at the time, away from the period of low interest rates and amid considerable global challenges. We now seem to be returning to a degree of stability, as central banks worldwide regain control over inflation and supply chains stabilise.”

Meanwhile, sustainability remains high on Denise’s agenda – as it does for Malta’s real estate sector. “Sustainability is the latest buzzword and a lot of meaningful work is being done as part of our ESG efforts. Nevertheless, the wider industry must give weight to the governance and social practices inherent in ESG to ensure the end user is more aware of the sustainability-related aspects of their property,” she goes on. “The long-term sustainability of Malta’s real estate sector hinges on a pivotal principle: prioritising quality developments over quantity. While the drive for growth and investment is important, it is equally critical to safeguard Malta’s unique attributes and natural resources. This approach not only serves the best interests of the local environment and community, but also ensures that investors continue to perceive the island as an attractive and viable destination for their investments.”

Harmoniously blending Malta’s urban texture and natural landscape using quality materials, AX Real Estate has accrued an impressive list of achievements in recent years. And, among multiple upcoming projects, AX Real Estate is set to focus on completing the fivestar Verdala Hotel in the last quarter of 2024.

“With the redevelopment of the Seashells Resort at Suncrest, rebranded into AX ODYCY Hotel, our vision was to regenerate the Qawra area, transforming it into a thriving community and reestablishing both the hotel and its locality as a highly sought-after destination,” shares Denise. “We have employed hundreds of new staff members across various divisions, and this multimillion-euro transformation has already helped breathe new life into Qawra. The upcoming year will also bring another significant milestone for AX Real Estate: the next phase of the AX ODYCY destination in Qawra.”

To strengthen its capital base and secure the finances required to complete both the Verdala and ODYCY developments, AX Group approached Malta’s stock market in 2023. Having secured the funds to mature and consolidate the many projects across the AX Real Estate portfolio, Denise foresees that 2024 will bring further investment in an ever-changing real estate landscape. “Malta’s property market presents a wealth of opportunities for buyers and investors who can navigate the challenges and capitalise on emerging trends. We never shy away from new investment opportunities, provided they are the right ones. Our excellent track record, which we’ve built over the years, coupled with the group’s financial strength and sound management ethos, are key ingredients for AX Real Estate to continue its success story for many more years to come,” the CEO concludes.

This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2024 – the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders

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