Emaar shuts Algeria office as projects stall

Two years ago the developer said it had $20bn worth projects in the North African country on the drawing board.

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Emaar Properties has closed its office in Algeria because of a lack of progress on its developments in the country, it said Saturday. The moves comes amid mounting doubts about the status of the US$20 billion (Dh73.46bn) of developments that it announced in conjunction with the Algerian government last year. "Emaar created designs for key developments in the country and the master plans were submitted to the authorities for approval," it said. "Due to a lack of progress beyond the company's control, the office set up to drive these projects has now been closed." Of all the North African countries that drew Gulf developers during the past few years, Algeria has been the slowest to take off, as its economy is still recovering from a long-running insurrection, and the government has been reluctant to cede land to developers or sell it at a low price. In July 2006 Emaar announced a number of projects, including the redevelopment of Algiers Bay, which raised eyebrows with its $25bn price tag. David Butter, the Economist Intelligence Unit's Middle East business editor, told Reuters last year: "Generally, in North Africa the level of execution of Gulf-announced property and tourism projects is still very much to be proven. In Morocco, things are moving a little. In Algeria, there is little to show for the $25bn of deals." Emaar, based in Dubai, has been among the property companies hardest hit by the economic crisis. It recently announced plans to merge with the property subsidiaries of Dubai Holding. It did not reveal whether its projects in Algeria had been cancelled, but said it was "open to investments in the country in line with its strategy of developing its projects in international markets". khagey@thenational.ae * with Reuters