John Buck International (JBI), one of the largest property development firms in Abu Dhabi, has laid off staff in the emirate, in the latest sign of weakness in the local real estate market.

The company is a joint venture between US-based John Buck Company and the state-owned investment firm Mubadala Development Company. The latter is also its largest client.

A spokesman for JBI confirms it has terminated the employment contracts of 22 members of staff.

“After a thorough review of the business and the market, and to effectively meet the demands of our project pipeline, JBI has realigned its business to our core asset classes of office, hotel, residential and mixed use developments,” says the spokesman.

Abu Dhabi’s real estate market performed poorly in 2009 and is expected to continue to struggle in 2010.

In a report issued in the third quarter of 2009, US-based property consultant Colliers International said there are strong signs that demand for property is falling in the emirate and it predicted the real estate market would be over-supplied in 2010.

JBI is working on a number of Mubadala schemes, including Sowwah Island, Sowwah Square, Zayed University, and the TwoFour54 Media Zone.

“Mubadala is a shareholder and partner in JBI and continues to work with the business across multiple projects,” says a Mubadala spokesman.

The most advanced scheme is the Sowwah Square development on Sowwah island, between Reem Island and the port area of Abu Dhabi Island.

JBI says it will continue to work on this development and that it remains on schedule to open early in 2011.

“Our role on Sowwah Square continues in line with our original agreement with Mubadala. The project team was not impacted by this realignment and Sowwah Square will be open for business [in] early 2011,” says the JBI spokesman.