x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Q&A on the rise of Abu Dhabi's new financial heart

Peter Wilding, associate director of Mubadala Real Estate and Hospitality, discusses the progress of Sowwah Island.

Peter Wilding expects positive first and second quarters next year. Maisam Darwish for The National
Peter Wilding expects positive first and second quarters next year. Maisam Darwish for The National

Peter Wilding, the associate director and head of Mubadala Real Estate and Hospitality, talks about Sowwah Island's imminent rise.

q When is Sowwah Island due to officially open?

What we'll probably do is to launch Sowwah Square at the end of this year. [Some tenants] will have soft launches [before then]. But we're currently preparing to have a grand launch at the end of the year.

q It was originally planned that Sowwah Square would open at the end of 2010. Why the delay?

Fundamentally, we've had building delays. We embarked on a very ambitious programme and the reality was that for us to achieve the standards that we wanted to, it's taken us more time. I don't think there was one specific issue.

There has been no failure - there has been no termination of contracts. It's the same people that started that are finishing it.

I think we were optimistic to start with, but we have always stayed true to our vision of ensuring that we would give a world-class, grade-A standard commercial space.

q Against whom is the Sowwah Island development going to compete?

We don't see a natural rival. We don't have a natural peer in Abu Dhabi. There are various centres or CBDs [central business districts] in the region that have all got their advantages. But here, the advantage is that we've been able to start from ground zero.

q What are the pluses of the new Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange?

You just need to walk into the stock exchange. I've never seen something like it. It's a spectacular space.

This is an incredibly high-tech building. We've actually improved the technology twice during the construction phase - that's how quickly the IT environment goes.

This will definitely be state of the art. It's really about trying to push the boundaries of technology.

q How much of the four towers in Sowwah Square have been filled at this stage?

Towers one and three were a pre-lease opportunity. We've been marketing those over the construction period. We're almost full within those two towers. Upon completion, we'll launch [towers] two and four.

q Is Sowwah Island cannibalising office space in other developments?

A lot of the time the tenants will make a decision not purely on a commercial basis. He'll look at proximity, he'll look at future opportunities, and he'll look at who else is in that development. We're very confidential about who goes in where. Once we open and we're able to mention who we have and what we have, I'm positive of a very positive first and second quarter of next year.

We've had a lot of third-party interest in this island - plot sales are becoming a realistic possibility.

* Gregor Stuart Hunter