Abu Dhabi project reviews reflect reality

21 September 2010

Abu Dhabi government-controlled Mubadala’s new management responds to new economic climate by re-assessing schemes

Abu Dhabi’s Cityscape 2008 was a major event for government-controlled Mubadala Development Company. Its real-estate unit Mubadala Real Estate & Hotels used the exhibition to launch a series of major projects designed to transform Abu Dhabi.

Project plans and joint ventures drawn up during the better times will continue to be scrutinised

The projects had been talked about unofficially in Abu Dhabi for some time, but it was the first time the developer and its executive director John Thomas had gone public with their large-scale real-estate plans.

The two main schemes on show were the MGM Abu Dhabi planned for the Mina Zayed area of Abu Dhabi Island, and the Sowwah Square development on Sowwah Island between Reem Island and Abu Dhabi Island.

Two and a half years later, John Thomas has left Mubadala and the real-estate unit’s new leadership is reviewing those plans. Although no construction has started on the MGM project, Mubadala is taking the opportunity to make sure the project still stacks up in the rather different economic realities of 2010.

Work on Sowwah Square is well advanced and must be completed, but Mubadala is taking the opportunity to review its relationship with the project’s development manager John Buck International (JBI), which is an in-house joint venture with the US’ John Buck Company.

JBI is not the first in-house delivery vehicle in Abu Dhabi to be put under the spotlight by its local shareholder. Local developer Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) abruptly ended its joint venture with Australian contractor Gulf Leighton, and fellow local developer Aldar Properties wound back its plans with the UK contractor Laing O’Rourke.

As Abu Dhabi’s real-estate market remains depressed, project plans and joint ventures drawn up during the better times will continue to be scrutinised. If the plans still work Abu Dhabi has the financial strength to make sure they will go ahead, if they don’t they will be revised or scrapped.

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