Bahrain’s $650m Villamar project to restart

Project containing three twisting towers is now set for completion in 2017 - ten years after the construction contract was signed.

The stalled $650 million project comprises three twisting towers of 54, 52 and 43 storeys, which are to contain a hotel, serviced flats and regular apartments. Razan Alzayani / The National
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Gulf Holding Company (GHC), the developer of the long-delayed Villamar project close to the Bahrain Financial Harbour complex, has said that work is restarting after the restructuring of the project’s finances.

The US$650 million project comprises three twisting towers of 54, 52 and 43 storeys, which are to contain a hotel and apartments.

GHC said that it had signed a restructuring deal with support from the project’s original financier Al Rajhi Bank, new funder GFH Group (GFH) and the contractor, UAE-based Al Hamad Contracting.

As a result, it said cranes had been moved back on to the site to restart work and the project is now due for completion in two years.

Villamar was initially launched in 2007 when GHC awarded a $380m construction contract to Sharjah-based Al Hamad Contracting.

Initially it was due for completion in the first quarter of 2010, but stopped midway through construction as the financial crisis caused projects to stall across the Arabian Gulf.

Protests in Bahrain also caused issues for the local property market.

However, in February, Bahrain’s government announced that it had passed a law aimed at restarting many of the kingdom’s major stalled real estate projects, and last month the deputy premier Sheikh Khalid Al Khalifa, who also heads Bahrain’s ministerial committee on reconstruction and infrastructure, held a meeting aimed at advancing Villamar’s future.

GFH Group told Dubai’s Financial Market that it will finance the project’s completion and cover funding shortfalls to the tune of $50m.

Hisham Alrayes, the GHC chairman, said the project would now be completed in phases, with all structural work completing as part of phase one, and the interiors of a retail and leisure mall on podium floors plus the apartments on the 43-storey Tower B being completed first.

More than 50 per cent of these have already been sold, but once complete it will use the remaining funds from their development to fit-out the interiors of the rest of the project. An agreement is in place with an as-yet unannounced hotel operator to take on the 52-storey Tower C.

“They might be the operator of the whole project, but that is still under negotiations,” Mr Alrayes said.

He said that Villamar was one of the most high-profile projects in Bahrain due to its location, and added that its recommencement was a “strong signal” for Manama’s development market.

“We expect it to be a good driver for the Bahrain market in general and the Bahrain Financial Harbour in particular,” said Mr Alrayes.

“With this agreement now in place, we are able to advance construction and work toward the completion of another landmark project in Bahrain,” said Nashat Sahawneh, the chairman of Al Hamad Construction.

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