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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Jeddah Tower: Future world’s tallest building delayed after contractor problems

The 1km-plus tower, formerly known as Kingdom Tower, has reached the 40th floor and is now due for completion by the end of 2019.
The construction team working on the Jeddah Tower project has completed the podium structure and reached the 40th vertical floor. Pictured is the tower on Sunday, May 15,2016. Susan Baaghil for The National
The construction team working on the Jeddah Tower project has completed the podium structure and reached the 40th vertical floor. Pictured is the tower on Sunday, May 15,2016. Susan Baaghil for The National
The developer behind the 1km-high Jeddah Tower, set to be the world’s tallest building, has said that it is looking to get back up to speed after funding issues with contractor Saudi Binladin Group caused delays.

Hisham Jomah, the chief development officer of Jeddah Economic Company, confirmed that the project formerly known as Kingdom Tower is now due for completion at the end of 2019 – 12 months later than originally planned.

Speaking to The National after giving a presentation on the project at the Smart Skyscrapers Summit in Dubai, Mr Jomah said the delay was “due to a number of factors – mainly to the contractor”.

“Basically, it was a financial problem. Until we secured a loan from the bank … to make sure that the cash flow for the contractor is more stable for the time schedule.”

Mr Jomah said that work never came to a halt at the site, “but it came to a very low pace for a period of time of three to four months”.

An 8.4 billion Saudi riyal (Dh8.2bn) funding deal for the project was sec­ured from Riyadh-based bank Alinma in November this year.

He added that the Jeddah Economic Company is attempting to ramp up activity to get back to a programme where a floor of the tower can be completed once every five days.

“Right now, we are between six and eight [days],” said Mr Jomah.

“It’s a very demanding project. It requires the best of anyone who comes close to it, and sometimes the best is not attainable.”

Binladin is not only the contractor building the tower, it is also a shareholder in the developer, holding a 16.66 per cent stake in Jeddah Economic Company.

Qila’a Jeddah Co also holds 16.66 per cent, while Prince Al Waleed bin Talal’s investment company, Kingdom Holding, and Jeddah-based Abrar Holding each own 33.3 per cent.

Binladin hit financial trouble late last year after it was suspended from bidding for new work following the collapse of a crane that killed at least 109 pilgrims at Mecca’s Grand Mosque, and the suspension of payments to most contractors in the kingdom by the government as it reassessed schemes before announcing its National Transformation Plan.

Binladin did not immediately reply to a request for comment but a spokesman for the company has said: “As a principle, the group doesn’t comment on its financial issues, or relationships with other business partners. “We remain focused and committed to deliver our projects to the highest standards and satisfaction of our clients as we have always been doing.”

Last week Binladin confirmed to The National that it is in the process of laying off 14,000 more staff in the coming weeks, following 55,000 earlier departures.

During his presentation, Mr Jomah said that the construction team working on the Jeddah Tower project has completed the podium structure and reached the 40th vertical floor. In total, it will have 252 floors and, unlike Burj Khalifa, will mainly be a solid concrete building, meaning floors “from tip to toe” can be occupied.

Mr Jomah said the final height of the building would not be revealed even to project partners until six months before its completion, when the size of the spire at the top will also be revealed.

He said that the challenges in building such a structure had been immense – it will contain enough steel for eight Eiffel Towers, and enough concrete for six Hoover Dams.

mfahy@thenational.ae

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