Abu Dhabi forms tourism partnership with Gulf Leighton

06 December 2007
Abu Dhabi's Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) has entered into a partnering agreement with the local contractor Gulf Leighton to build projects in Abu Dhabi. The projects include part of TDIC’s AED100bn ($27.2bn) Saadiyat island development and the eastern mangrove resort that will be built close to Abu Dhabi’s eastern ring road.

TIDC owns 51 per cet of the new venture - TDIC-Leighton Contracting LLC, which has been formed to undertake various contracts for TDIC developments, including the 6.5 kilometre Saadiyat Link road, which will connect Abu Dhabi’s Shahama district to Saadiyat Island, which is being developed into a signature leisure, cultural and residential destination, as well as the Eastern Mangroves Hotel and the new TDIC headquarters being built adjacent to Maqta Bridge - the main Abu Dhabi city gateway.

In September, the TDIC awarded Gulf Leighton the AED2.1bn infrastructure construction contract for Saadiyat island. The two-year contract was directly negotiated and covers the construction of a 6.5-kilometre-long section of the highway that will link Shahama with Saadiyat, including seven bridges with a total length of 1.6km and three tunnels.

Saadiyat island involves some of the most prestigious building projects in region. Its cultural district will house the Guggenheim museum designed by US-based Frank Gehry, the Louvre Abu Dhabi designed by France’s Jean Nouvel, a maritime museum designed by Japan’s Tadao Ando, and a performing arts centre designed by London-based Zaha Hadid. The UK’s Foster & Partners, Norway’s Snohetta, Shingeru Ban of Japan and Moriyama & Teshima of Canada have been shortlisted for the design of the Sheikh Zayed National Museum.

The 27 square kilometre-island also includes a marina district, beachfront hotels and residential communities.
The AED400m eastern mangrove project covers 140,000 square metres, involves the construction of a five-star resort and spa with about 100 rooms, a 50-berth marina and 18 stilted water villas and 100 apartments. Singapore’s Angsana Resorts & Spa will manage the hotel, spa and residences (MEED 14:9:07).

Partnering has become the prefered method of procuring contractors for major projects in Abu Dhabi. In December 2006 local developer Aldar Properties formed a joint venture with the UK’s Laing O’Rourke for its AED54bn Al-Raha Beach development, and it is negotiating with Belgium’s Besix for a partnership agreement that will cover the construction of the the Ferrari theme park and shopping mall on the AED147bn Yas island development in Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi has been forced to explore other methods of procurement to attract large international contractors to work in the emirate. An estimated AED514bn of projects are planned over the next 10 years. Local contractors are unable to meet the demand for construction services, particularly in the building sector where resources and experience are limited.

The new agreementshould fill Leighton’s order book in the capital in the foreseeable future, and it is expected to call on resources, particularly labour, from its sister company in Dubai Al-Habtoor Engineering Enterprises.

In September 2007 Gulf Leighton’s Australian parent company Leighton International, acquired a 45 per cent stake in Al-Habtoor for AED2.6bn.

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