Building resumes on Dh700m Dubai project

Construction has resumed on one of the largest developments within Dubai's financial free zone after a Dh700 million contract was awarded.

Construction has resumed on one of the largest developments within Dubai's financial free zone after a Dh700 million (US$190.5m) contract was awarded to a joint venture that includes Australia's biggest builder. It comes eight months after Daman Investments, the developer, cancelled a deal with Oger Dubai, a unit of Saudi Oger.

The Buildings by Daman towers development was launched in 2005 and includes a 20-storey office block, a 60-storey hotel and a 60-storey apartment building. It is among a number of upcoming projects in Dubai's financial district, including Index tower, a residential and office building by Union Properties. Al Habtoor Leighton, a joint venture between Dubai's Al Habtoor Engineering and Australia's Leighton International formed in 2007, expects to complete the project by December next year, two years after the original deadline.

The joint venture last year lost about Dh12 billion from its order book through cancelled contracts in the UAE as a result of the financial downturn, but it has a number of new deals in the pipeline across the Middle East, according to its managing director Laurie Voyer. "While there has been an adjustment to the Dubai building market, there are still a number of prospects for us with clients who value quality and creative delivery mechanisms," Mr Voyer said, adding that "Dubai remains part of the group's ongoing growth plans".

Despite the slowdown in the Emirates, he said the company was "seeing opportunities in large-scale infrastructure across the region". Leighton International, which is listed on the Australian stock exchange, owns 45 per cent of the joint-venture company. Al Habtoor Leighton is one of about 11 firms that have pre-qualified to build the Louvre Abu Dhabi and it is also bidding for the Guggenheim museum. Both form part of the Cultural District at Saadiyat Island, a project by the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC).

The company is chasing the contracts in partnership with South Africa's Murray & Roberts. Mr Voyer said in May the company was also pursuing oil-related construction deals worth an estimated Dh2.57bn in Iraq as it capitalised on the country's plans to expand oil production. A spokesman for the company said the deals had yet to be finalised. The group's current backlog of projects is worth about Dh23bn.

Among Al Habtoor Leighton's ongoing projects are Dubai Pearl, where the company is building four 73-storey towers in a contract worth Dh8.85bn when it was awarded in late 2008. Construction on the project is continuing, although the deadline has been put back by two years, with completion expected in 2013. The company is also working on a number of projects in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, where it formed a partnership with Al Rajhi Projects and Construction, a contractor based in Riyadh, last year.