x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Sowwah and DIFC will complement each other

Unlike Dubai International Finance City, Abu Dhabi's Sowwah Island will cater to a range of businesses and offer residences as well.

A strikingly designed business district featuring a stock exchange, bank towers, five-star hotels and loads of trendy shops and restaurants - sounds a lot like Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), doesn't it?

But despite the similarities between Sowwah Island and DIFC, officials with both developments say the plan is to complement one another and not compete.

Mubadala officials have said Sowwah is "not a DIFC model" in part because more than 40 per cent of the island is reserved for residential space. They said a better comparison is Time Warner Center in Manhattan, which features boutique stores and restaurants as well as hundreds of luxury apartments overlooking Central Park.

In addition, the business tenants are not exclusively in the financial sector, but include law firms, aerospace companies and healthcare providers.

Sowwah "is becoming less of a financial services cluster and more of a general business district", said David Dudley, regional director and head of the Abu Dhabi office for Jones Lang LaSalle, the property consultancy. "They recognised over time that in order to be successful it needs to be more broadly based across a number of sectors. There is no point in replicating DIFC in Sowwah."

For its part, the DIFC continues to adjust its model to reflect the changes in corporate spending as a result of the global financial crisis. Last week the DIFC reduced the rental rate for offices in the centre by more than 50 per cent for some tenants, with a new sliding scale of rates that are adjusted according to the amount of space offered.

The centre now has 782 active companies, including 16 of the world's top 20 banks, and a working population of about 12,000 people.

In a statement, Abdulla Mohammed al Awar, DIFC's chief executive, said: "We wish Sowwah Square all the best with their new development and we look forward to enhancing together the business community of the UAE."