During Dubai’s construction boom that ended so abruptly in 2008, the main contractors could be split into two groups: those that worked for Emaar properties and those that worked for Nakheel.

The commonly held belief was that firms could not work for both. Until 2008, this was largely true. Just before the crash, the market conditions were so good that the two developers seemed to stop competing and dropped their obsession with secrecy. Contractors that traditionally worked for Emaar started working for Nakheel. The divide was forgotten in 2009-11 as both developers struggled to overcome financial issues and stopped awarding new work.

With new projects being awarded and planned in 2012, contractors may have to make the choice again. Nakheel has started work on projects on the Palm Jumeirah and Dragon Mart. Emaar is tendering at the Greens and is planning a new scheme at its Downtown district.

Although sales in good locations so far this year have been promising, it is too early to determine the depth of that demand. If developers have to compete for customers, then secrecy will inevitably come back to the fore and contractors will have to choose which developer they work for.

Prior to the crash, there was enough work with both developers to keep everyone happy. Contractors will hope that it is the same this time around, but the reality is more likely to be tough strategic choices ahead.