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Sat 4 Dec 2004 04:00 AM

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Saudi group buys 40% of US $3.8 billion Legends Dubailand

Contracts worth hundreds of millions likely to be awarded for the 300 000 m² development

A Saudi investment group has committed US $120 million in the company that is being formed to promote the world’s largest indoor theme park, the $3.8 billion mixed-use Legends-Dubailand project. The holding company, being formed by Bahrain-based Gulf Finance House through a private placement, will be capitalised at $302 million and will be registered in Dubai.

“Sheikh Sulayman Al Majed of Tanmiyat has committed to 40% of the holding company’s capital,” said Esam Janahi, GFH chief executive, while announcing details of the project.

Ahmad Al Qattan, GFH chief investment officer, told Construction Week that the group has shortlisted the project manager for Legends–Dubailand. It is an international name and will be announced shortly. Jean Michel Rouls is the architect for the project and Edifice of Shahram Faroughi has provided design and project management consultancy. Glen Corporation will be the theme park operator.

GFH is in negotiations with property management consultants, and has a short list. “We are negotiating with international names and we will shortly announce this too. We also have a feasibility study consultant,” Al Qattan said.

He explained that studies are at an advanced stage and that the group is in the mobilisation phase. Actual site mobilisation will start by the middle of next year. “The project will be carried out in three stages. We will have the first phase operational by 2007 with the first theme park of Legends of Arabia. The second stage will be completed by 2010 and the third and final phase by 2013.”

Speaking on the sidelines of last week’s Cityscape, Janahi explained that the project will be financed in phases. “We have 10% as equity that will be used for infrastructure. We will create project finance for each cluster as it develops. We project a 20% internal rate of return,” Janahi said.

Al Qattan said revenues would kick in much earlier than the operational first phase with the sale of freehold homes on the development. He explained that the project will be developed in close partnership with Dubai Holding, which is promoting the vast 200 million m² Dubailand. In a statement, Mohammed Al Gergawi, Dubai Holding chief executive said: “We welcome Bahrain’s Gulf Finance House and Saudi Arabia’s Tanmiyat Group to Dubailand. Their interest shows how truly regional a project Dubailand is.”

Providing details of the project, designer Shahnam Faroughi said the project will have seven main components, at the core of which will be Legends of Arabia, Legends of Nature and Legends of the World. The complex will be spread across 300 000 m² and will be the largest indoor theme park in the world.

The Legends of Arabia will have five theme areas; the Legends of Nature will have a biodome to showcase diversity of the climate and the Legends of the World has been inspired by people and places. The complex will have a Legends Leisure Complex that will offer entertainment, retail and fine dinning with a 16 000 unit car park. It will also feature four hotels, three of which will be themed on Arabian, Caribbean and medieval concepts. Apartment complexes will be part of this segment.

Legends-Dubailand will also have a golf course with surrounding villas built in what will be the Living Legends segment. There will also be Trade Legends, which will offer offices and covered arcades. “The architecture will be dramatic, reflecting Arabian fantasy,” Faroughi said.

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