x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

At Atlantis, bankers take a different plunge

There was only one place inside the Dubai hotel offering better terms.

While holidaymakers at the Hotel Atlantis queued up yesterday to experience the Leap of Faith, a heart-stopping plunge from eight storeys high through a tank of sharks, bankers were inside the conference centre being asked to do something similar. More than 200 of them turned up in pinstriped suits and traditional dress - fortunately none was wearing Speedos - to the hotel that opened just as the Great Recession was taking hold. Built by Nakheel, a Dubai World company, it was opened to a grand fanfare of fireworks and singing from Kylie Minogue in the autumn of 2008. Yesterday was a rather more sombre affair.

There was certainly no singing. In fact, most of the phalanx of PR advisers ensured that hardly anybody bleated. There was one alarm when a wire reporter almost sneaked past the red-roped enclosure by pretending she was planning her wedding. Only the keen eyes of a Bloomberg rival prevented this breach of protocol. Occasionally, the odd banker slipped out through the prawn and scallop-lined walls. Under an atrium of pink starfish, they declined to comment, although one did let slip that the terms were "the same".

The waiting press pack could have told them that and that they need not have bothered coming to the Atlantis because all the documents were available on a website, assuming you had the right password. None of the journalists had been given the password, which was why we were there. Eventually, around 2.30pm, a banker broke cover and raced to the door. Keen reporters tailed him and heard the news. "We are not happy," said Suresh Vaidyanathan, the head of operations at Alubaf Arab International Bank in Bahrain. "The pricing is low."

Ten minutes later, a man dressed in a Turkish costume complete with fez was seen trying to gain entrance to the meeting. He was pulling a blue cooler box. Could this contain freshly printed term sheets? "It's just juices and Turkish coffee," he said, although he would not let us look in the box. Project Lynx was proving to be less exciting than its name, and more like Project Pussycat. Those bankers who were willing to hang on until 7 o'clock would have found there was one place in the hotel willing to offer better terms.

Entrance to the Aquaventure Park, complete with waterslides including the Leap of Faith was reduced from Dh200 (US$54.46) to Dh150. What's more, you could scare yourself until midnight. For most bankers, this was an offer too good to refuse, but first they went back to their offices to mull it over. @Email:rwright@thenational.ae