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French Version

Gulf money pours into Downtown Beirut

Abu Dhabi Investment house to develop $600 million project

Privately-Owned Abu Dhabi Investment House announced Friday the launching of a $600 million project involving residential and business facilities in Beirut Central District, the biggest venture in Solidere.

The project will cover an area of 178,000 square meters, encompassing seven deluxe residential buildings and business centers with a total area measuring 21,447 square meters.

Gulf investors have been pouring money into Lebanon in general and the BCD in particular since the events of September 11, 2001 in the United States.

The assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri apparently did not dissuade Lebanese and Arab companies from making major real estate investments in Solidere.

ADIH CEO Rashad Youssef Janahi said the first phase of subscription for the real-estate venture reached $160 million mainly from Gulf investors and businessman.

"The subscription period lasted for 18 months and was very successful ... we managed to secure a financial infrastructure worth $160 million from Arab and foreign investors and businessmen," said Janahi during a news conference.

Janahi said he hoped that project - the first ADIH executes in Lebanon - would be a unique landmark in Downtown Beirut.

"Our studies showed that in approximately 18 months we will regain around 37.5 percent of the total amount invested," said Janahi.

He added that "Beirut Gate" would be developed in a way that will preserve the historical aspect of the city, but using modern technologies which will make it a "fusion of heritage and modern life."

The privately-owned company which is in charge of the project's management and subscription said it is currently looking for a project developer for "Beirut Gate," the Greek model which won the best design in last year's architectural design competition.

Solidere, the developer of the Downtown, said Beirut Gate which will be located to the south of Martyrs' Square will generate significant revenues.

"The project will be highly successful and will answer the needs and demands of Lebanese citizens, tourists, businessmen and investors," said Solidere Chairman Nasser Chammaa.

"Beirut Gate" is based on the design of the Athens-based architectural team of Vassiliki Agorastidou, Antonis Noukakis, Lito-Lemonia Ioannidou, and Bouki Babalou-Noukaki who were named first-prize winners in an international competition for a design to revitalize Martyrs' Square in Beirut last May.

Chammaa also said Solidere will soon announce the launching of two other real estate projects in the area, one of which will exceed the budget of "Beirut Gate."

"This indicates that investors still have full confidence in the area ... all investors are making huge profits and are optimistic. Once political stability is re-established, demand for stocks will rise," said Chammaa.

Solidere A and B shares reached $25 three months ago due to the high demand on properties. But the stocks eventually fell to $22 and $21 levels.

Solidere dominates the daily trading of Beirut Stock Exchange which experienced the best growth in 2005 for the first time since the bourse reopened in 1996.

The company recorded a net profit of over $50 million in the first nine months of 2005 and officials say performance will be better than 2004.

The competition for Martyrs' Square and the so-called Grand Axis of Beirut was launched a year ago in June 2004.

Beirut,03 04 2006
Nada Bakri
The Daily Star
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