Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal says he is looking at the world's largest cities, including Shanghai, Moscow, London and New York, as possible locations to build a mile-high skyscraper that would be the world's tallest building by far.
The prince is inviting Dubai's biggest real estate developer Emaar Properties, chaired by Mohammed Alabbar, to team up with his investment firm Kingdom Holding on the project.
"Right now we are discussing and evaluating the possibility of building a one-mile (1.6-kilometre) tower," Alwaleed told Reuters by telephone late on Monday.
"We also need good partners. I invite Emaar and Mr Alabbar to join forces with us and see how we can build the ultimate one-mile tower somewhere in the world."
Alwaleed did not say how the project would be financed if it went ahead, or when it might be completed. He said the cost had yet to be decided.
But his ambition reflects the growing confidence of many Gulf companies as they expand overseas, aided by booming economies and rising asset prices in their home countries.
"I am now inviting the major cities of the world like Shanghai, Moscow, New York, London and regional cities in the Middle East to come and give their offers," Alwaleed said.
He said countries interested in hosting the world's tallest tower would have to offer attractive financing terms, tax breaks and other government support.
Alabbar could not immediately be reached for comment. Over the past year, Emaar has committed itself to several other huge projects in Dubai and nearby countries.
Industry experts have said building a one-mile skyscraper would involve technical and design challenges, such as how to supply water economically at that height, but would not be impossible.
If it is built, the mile-high tower would surpass the world's current tallest skyscraper, the 828-metre (2,717-foot) Burj Khalifa in Dubai, as well as the one-kilometre-high Kingdom Tower now being built by Kingdom Holding in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah.
The Kingdom Tower is expected to cost around SR4.6bn ($1.2bn) and will form part of a hotel, retail and luxury residential project.
The structure is expected to reach ground level by the end of this year and to be completed in 2017, said Talal Al Maiman, executive director at Kingdom Holding.
About 30 percent of useable land in the overall project, which will have an area of about 5.3 million square metres, will be allocated to hotels. The remainder will be divided equally between retail and premium residential space, Al Maiman added.
Kingdom Holding, which went public in 2007, has a market value of about $18.5 billion, making it one of the largest listed investment firms in the Middle East. Its assets include stakes in top Western firms such as Citigroup, News Corp and Twitter as well as luxury hotels around the world.