x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Habtoor Leighton Group fuels optimism with Dh480m contract

Jewel of the Creek, a Dh3bn project on Dubai Creek, is set to start taking shape after the award of a Dh480m contract to the UAE unit of Australia's biggest builder.

Habtoor Leighton Group has won a contract to build part of a Dh3 billion (US$816.72 million) marina development on Dubai Creek.

The UAE unit of Australia's biggest builder was awarded a Dh480m contract on the Jewel of the Creek development by Dubai International Real Estate.

The 123,955 square metre project is planned to include four and five-star hotels as well as a convention centre and a marina, Leighton Group said in a statement to the Australian stock exchange.

Jewel of the Creek is the first major creekside development to be launched in Dubai since the completion of Dubai Festival City in 2007.

It comes amid improving sentiment within Dubai's property industry, after house prices in some areas lost as much as half of their value since the market peak in late 2008. Developers have been encouraged to announce new projects or restart stalled ones as the emirate attracts more visitors from overseas, helping to fuel its retail and tourism sectors.

Last month Al Habtoor, a family-run conglomerate that is Leighton's joint venture partner in Dubai, said it would develop a $1.33bn Las Vegas-style hotel development in Dubai city centre. Nakheel, the developer behind the emirate's palm-shaped islands, also plans to start selling new townhouses to be built on the trunk of Palm Jumeirah.

"There has been an uptick in interest in projects that are seen as being more feasible with a good chance of being pushed through," said Matthew Green, the head of research at CBRE in Dubai, an international property consultancy. "We are seeing more feasibility studies, but we're still not at the point where we are seeing a real restart of construction activity."

The contract award is an encouraging sign for a contractor that has had a challenging six months in the region after disclosing it had encountered payment collection issues on some of its contracts. It reported a $153.9m loss in the Middle East and Africa in the six months ending in December. It is also investigating a possible breach of its "ethics code" at its offshore unit involving payments related to a project in Iraq.

The creek project is expected to be completed by August of next year.

scronin@thenational.ae

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