Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), the flagship developer of cultural and residential projects in Abu Dhabi, is hoping to sell parcels of land on its flagship Saadiyat Island project to foreign sovereign wealth funds.
The government-owned developer building Abu Dhabi's much anticipated cultural district told The National that it was in discussions with overseas funds to invest in land at its 27 square kilometre island, which lies 500 metres off the coast of Abu Dhabi.
"We are talking to sovereign funds for them to come and invest in Saadiyat. I can't say which funds yet and it is at an early stage but we are talking with them about buying plots of land on Saadiyat," Ahmed Al Fahim, the executive director of sales and leasing, said at the Cityscape Global exhibition in Dubai this week.
"They would be sovereign funds."
TDIC has been working on plans to develop the prestigious Saadiyat Island scheme since its inception in 2006. Ambitious plans for the island include branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums, a campus for New York University and homes for 145,000 residents.
Plans for the development were put under review during the global economic downturn but Mr Al Fahim said he was seeing signs the market was recovering and it was keen to press ahead with its plans.
The Executive Council earlier this year approved funding for the construction of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums, as well as the Zayed museum on the island.
Investment by sovereign wealth funds into other projects on the island would likely speed up TDIC's plans and allow it to press ahead with its ambitious projects.
"We are recovering now. Once you witness an increase in transactions and market is recovering then we will start to master plan again what we want to build next," he said at the sidelines of the Cityscape Global event in Dubai this week, where buyers of new projects pointed to a rebound in the real estate markets.
"What's happening in Dubai is repeated also in Abu Dhabi. In 2011 for the whole year we sold 16 villas. And in 2012 we didn't finish the year and we've sold 72 villas so that gives you the real picture that really there is an increased interest in properties. Mainly they were on our project on Saadiyat. This is the first time after two years we are participating in Cityscape, obviously because we see that the market is coming back and there is increasing demand so we thought this is a good opportunity to be here."
Mr Al Fahim did not detail which land parcels might be on offer to investors.
Investment from overseas would also shore up TDIC's balance sheet, after years of investment in infrastructure and other investment on the island. In June the company announced it made a loss of Dh1.2bn last year, following a loss of Dh1.15bn in 2010.
However, TDIC ended last year with more than Dh2bn in cash on its balance sheet and Mr Al Fahim was hopeful that the company would be turning a profit in the coming year as it progresses with its plans on Saadiyat and the Eastern Mangroves.
The company last month started leasing its 285 one, two and three-bedroom apartments at its Saadiyat Beach Residences, which Mr Al Fahim said were in high demand. And three weeks ago its announced it was selling 29 villa plots at Saadiyat Golf Views.
"The rents start from Dh70,000. We have people coming and signing contracts. So far we have signed about 20 contracts. We are expecting a lot of demand; we have big companies and we have individuals taking leases - whatever comes."
"We are looking at going into another phase of villas and another phase of apartments because we see demand on Saadiyat," he added.