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Tue 2 Oct 2007 10:01 PM

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Emaar wins colossal $20bn Algeria development

Developer to build four projects around Algiers in country's largest ever property deal.

Dubai-based Emaar Properties, announcing Algeria's largest ever property development, said it would build four projects in and around the capital Algiers worth a total of $20 billion.

The ventures - a new town called Sidi Abdellah, a tourist resort, a health resort and redevelopment of the Algiers waterfront - will create several thousand jobs in sectors such as tourism, information technology and health, a company statement said.

The announcement marks the highest-profile development yet in Algeria's lengthy attempt to deepen Arab interest in Africa's second largest country, which is trying to lessen reliance on oil and gas and is ploughing record energy revenues into a programme of reconstruction and development.

The new town of Sidi Abdellah, the Colonel Abbes tourist resort and Staoueli health resort are on the western outskirts of Algiers, a Mediterranean port city of three million people.

The projects will include a university, a hospital, a medical school, apartments, villas, hotels, sports centres, a business centre, shopping centres, a marina and a golf course.

Emaar, working on a series of property developments across the Arab world and south Asia, is 32% owned by the government of Dubai.

"Algeria is showing average annual growth of 6.1% and is in a new phase of economic reforms," the statement quoted Emaar Chairman Mohamed Ali Alabbar as saying.

"Radical economic changes proposed by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem have created a favourable investment climate that complements Emaar's plan for international expansion."

Algeria's 33 million people are trying to recover after 15 years of violence between the army and Islamist rebels, in which up to 200,000 people were killed. Providing jobs and improved housing, health and education could be key to increased social stability.

In 2005, Algeria received $1.08 billion in foreign direct investment, the seventh largest amount in Africa after South Africa, Nigeria, Morocco, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea and Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

Arab interest in Algeria was set off by Egyptian firm Orascom Telecom's entry into the telecoms sector in 2001.

Orascom, which operates in both fixed and mobile networks, is now the biggest telecoms company in Algeria with over 10 million subscribers. It has already invested $2 billion and another $1 billion in a cement plant.

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