A new AED1bn (US$272m) retail, residential and hotel development launched on Abu Dhabi’s Al Maryah Island is forecast to be completed in early 2017, it was announced on Sunday.
Sowwah Central will be a mixed use development featuring a 214,000 sqm shopping centre and adjoining hotel and residential towers on Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi.
The project is set to open in spring 2017 and will be connected to 51,000 sqm shopping and dining project The Galleria at Sowwah Square, both of which are being developed by UAE-based Gulf Related.
The Galleria, which will feature brands such as Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Prada, Gucci and Bulgari when it opens in August 2013, today announced the addition of 48 more fashion brands to its portfolio, including Dior, Fendi, Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Tag Heuer, Jimmy Choo and Diane von Furstenberg.
Its 25 food and beverage outlets will also include an Armani Caffé and licenced waterfront restaurants and cafes. Sowwah Central will be anchored by two international department stores, with both Gulf Related Al Maryah retail projects containing a combined total of over 500 retail, leisure, dining and entertainment options.
Gulf Related has worked on a number of high profile American projects, including the Time Warner Center in New York, CityPlace in West Palm Beach and Manhattan’s Hudson Yards, the largest private development in the USA.
Sowwah Central and The Galleria will be part of the first phase of a larger 1.5m sqm masterplan being developed by Mubadala Real Estate & Infrastructure (MREI) and which will also include four commercial towers, Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX), Rosewood Hotel and Four Seasons Hotel, the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and 15,000 parking spaces.
Gulf Related is a partnership between asset management firm Gulf Capital and Related Companies, one of the US’s largest private real estate development and investment firms.
Earlier this month, Abu Dhabi announced it was planning to spend AED330bn (US$89.9bn) on large scale infrastructure and housing projects.
At the same time, real estate agents Jones Lang LaSalle forecast that all four major real estate sectors in the UAE capital are set to see growth in 2013.
Abu Dhabi said its planned financial free zone would offer a wide range of services, from banking to fund management and commodities trading, and would aim to fill a gap in financial markets' coverage of the global day.
In February, United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan passed a federal decree to create the zone on Al Maryah island, close to Abu Dhabi's downtown area.
Announcing details of the plan on Wednesday, the emirate left little doubt that its zone, to be called the Global Marketplace Abu Dhabi, could become a competitor to Dubai, currently the Gulf's premier financial centre.
Abu Dhabi's zone will have an independent regulator with its own board, the Financial Services Regulations Bureau, as well as two courts with a chief justice, the emirate's Office of Government Communications said in its first public statement on the subject.
The zone, to be launched in the fourth quarter of 2013, will offer benefits similar to the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), such as zero tax, easy repatriation of profits and exemption from customs duties on imports.
"Under the law there will be independent authorities that have their independent budgets and mandates under the regulations of the Global Marketplace Abu Dhabi," the statement said.
Institutions operating in the zone will include various types of bank, trading companies, foreign exchange and commodity trading companies, prime brokerages, pension and investment funds, Islamic financial firms, companies handling stock trading, financial consultancies and others, it said.
"The free zone will bridge the gap in the global markets between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m., between Asia and Europe, due to the strategic location of the UAE," the statement said.
Early this month the Abu Dhabi government said it would set up a full-service financial zone on an island near the city's downtown. The zone would have its own administration and court system to attract banks and other firms from around the world.
The announcement prompted speculation that because of its oil wealth, Abu Dhabi could eventually become a major competitor to the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), currently the Middle East's top financial centre. The DIFC is little more than an hour's drive from Abu Dhabi.
Al Mahmood, who is also on the board of Abu Dhabi state investment fund Mubadala, said ADS, a major, privately owned financial firm based in Abu Dhabi, would establish operations in the zone. He took part in preliminary discussions with Abu Dhabi authorities planning the new financial centre.
Business types that are likely to flourish in Abu Dhabi include market-making, money markets, asset management, commodities trading and prime brokerage services - activities that currently lack sophistication and depth in Abu Dhabi, said Al Mahmood.
"We are looking at opening a door of a new set of services that wasn't here. If you open this door, there will only be more traffic flow," he said.
Because of the presence of big Abu Dhabi investment firms such as its sovereign wealth fund, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority with estimated assets of $400-600 billion, Abu Dhabi has traditionally been a centre for "buy side" financial activity.
Now the emirate is providing an environment for sell-side services to cater to the buy-side requirements of Abu Dhabi and the region, Al Mahmood said. "The buy side is really going to attract a lot of the sell side to come in," he said.
The private sector will be expected to take the leadership in developing Abu Dhabi's financial zone, instead of leaving it to the government to build the zone, he said. The zone is to be launched in the fourth quarter of this year.
"Private sector players will make a big mistake if they don't take advantage of that and try to invest there."
Meanwhile, ADS Securities, a unit of ADS Holding, plans to expand to Singapore and Hong Kong to cater to its clients there and take advantage of growth opportunities in emerging markets in the vicinity of those two hubs, Al Mahmood said.
ADS offers trading in foreign exchange, bullion and precious metals, derivates and fixed income, as well as investment banking; it trades about $6 billion daily, a figure which could more than quadruple in the next three years, Al Mahmood added.
Abu Dhabi investment fund Mubadala has announced that work has started on a $1bn residential complex in a venture with Taiwan's Farglory group.
The four-tower complex Maryah Plaza will be built in phases on Al Maryah island, Abu Dhabi's new financial free zone, with completion set for 2020, Mubadala said in a statement.
The planned Maryah complex will provide 500 premium residences with access to retail, hotels and offices. The first tenants are expected in 2016.