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by Executive Editors

Kuwait’s rebuilding of Lebanon

The Kuwait Fund for the Arab Economic Development (KFAED) is planning to build the ‘Beirut Historical Museum’ in the Central District of the Lebanese capital, according to Mohammed Sadeki, a representative of KFAED, as quoted in An Nahar. The museum, valued at $30 million, will be built on a 9,000 square meter area with costs covered by a grant from the Kuwaiti government. Sadeki told the newspaper that that KFAED is currently executing 45 of the 53 projects Kuwait committed to as part of the reconstruction of Lebanon after the July 2006 war. The KFAED projects are valued at some $190 million; projects include infrastructural works, school building and renovation, as well as waste water plants. Moreover, $110 million is also granted as housing compensation as the fund aims to rebuild 24 villages in the south and 14 buildings in Beirut’s southern suburbs.

Solidere and SODIC launch new Cairo projects

Solidere International and the Egypt-based real estate developer Sixth of October Development and Investment Company (SODIC) announced the commencement of their projects in Cairo’s suburbs — Westown in the Sheikh Zayed neighborhood along the Cairo-Alexandria desert road and Eastown in the Kattameya area of New Cairo. On December 6, the launch of the first phase of the Westown development was announced. The phase includes two developments, the first of which is called ‘Forty West,’ an 830,000 square meters mixed-use facility that includes 175 high-end residential apartments, a luxury hotel, several restaurants and cafes in addition to retail shops and an entertainment center.

The second project named ‘The Polygon,’ is an 86,000 square meter business center that offers 11 office buildings, including a business hotel. Both projects are funded by investments amounting to $91.3 million for Forty West and $110 million for The Polygon. Construction of both developments should begin in March 2010 and are slated for completion by 2013. At the launching, Mounib Hammoud, the executive director of Solidere International, told Reuters that he saw good opportunities in buying land in Lebanon, Egypt, Montenegro and Saudi Arabia. “There’s a need for a million apartments in Saudi Arabia today…there are lots of plots, very interesting plots, in Riyadh and Jeddah,” he said.

Lebanon enters The World

Work is expected to begin on the Lebanon Island, part of Nakheel’s The World project located off the coast of Dubai. The island will host a $27 million resort including 76 suites, 10 water cottages, a health club, a swimming pool, restaurants and other facilities, according to Emirates Business 24/7. The developer behind the project is an Indian investor, Wakheel Ahmed. An official with the Indian architectural firm NM Salim and Associates was quoted in the daily as saying Ahmed was “deterred by the media reports about Dubai, but has the money and resources to start construction.” Construction work is also set to start on the Germany Island in the first quarter of this year, according to an announcement by the Austria and Hungary-based development company Kleindienst Group. The Germany Island is part of the group’s “heart

of Europe project,” which consists of six of The World’s islands. The project will include a part of the Netherlands Island called Amsterdam, which will host its own beach and leisure area. The heart of Europe project will also comprise of a five-star hotel called St. Petersburg, a luxury shopping arcade, and a dolphin pool on the Austria Island.  

More Israeli settlers push into the West Bank

In a report released in December 2009, the United Nation’s office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) stated that around 44 percent of the West Bank is off-limits for Palestinian construction, as these areas are reserved for Israeli settlers and military installations. The report added that tens of thousands of Palestinians built illegally because they couldn’t obtain permits, and thus faced the risk of having their homes demolished. Throughout 2009, 180 demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures took place and 319 Palestinians were displaced as a result.

Due to the difficulty of obtaining permits, schools, clinics and infrastructure works cannot be constructed, which contributes to the decreasing standard of living in the West Bank. OCHA also demanded Israel cease demolitions and stop transferring its population into settlements. Benny Begin, a minister without a portfolio who is part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, said that 10,000 new settlers will occupy parts of the West Bank within 10 months, adding that the 10-month moratorium announced in November only limited construction but did not freeze it, according to Agence France Presse.

On the other hand, the Palestine Authority’s Ministry of Local Government approved a master plan for the first Palestinian-planned city, Rawabi. The city will be developed by Bayti Real Estate Investment Company, which is jointly owned by Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company and the Ramallah-based Massar International. It will be located some 9 kilometers north of Ramallah and will include more than 5,000 housing units, according to a Bayti press release. The city is intended to create jobs for thousands of Palestinians and ease housing shortages by providing affordable residential units.

Saudi mega-merger

Last month, 11 large Saudi Arabian contracting companies announced their plans to merge to form a $1.07 billion entity made of companies from the oil and gas, real estate and maintenance sectors, according to Alswaq.net. The new entity will be called “The Union of Saudi Contracting Companies,” and it has already signed a contract with Ernst Young in Saudi Arabia to audit their accounts. Jassem el-Ramhi, chief executive at the new entity, said that the idea of merging came about before the financial crisis occurred, adding that the merger is slated for completion in three years, according to Alswaq. Until then each company will operate as a separate entity. Ramhi also added that the new company will offer up part of its stock on the Saudi stock exchange within three years.

Emaar shelves major merger

Emaar announced in November that it is dropping its merger plans with the three Dubai Holding entities — Sama Dubai, Dubai Properties and Tatweer. The developer behind Dubai’s tallest building, the Burj Dubai, whose opening was postponed until January, announced that the decision was based on a feasibility study conducted by economists and international experts which stated that the merger would be economically unfeasible.  The merger, announced in June, was intended to be completed in October 2009 but no official announcement came until December. If the merger had gone forward, it would have resulted in an entity with combined assets of $52.85 billion and a significant total debt of $3.7 billion. “The move shows that Emaar wants to [face] the current economic downturn on its own terms and is looking at retaining its shareholder value,” Sudhir Kumar, managing director of the property consultancy Realtor’s International told Gulf News in December 2009.

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