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Abu Dhabi’s Al Maabar aboard for €7bn project at former Athens airport

Abu Dhabi’s Al Maabar will help to spearhead what could become Europe’s largest mixed-use development, a €7 billion (Dh35.82bn) project to redevelop the former international airport in the Greek capital.

It represents the first major project to be undertaken by the coalition of developers from the capital outside their Middle East and North African area of operation.

The Athens project is expected to create as many as 30,000 jobs during development and 50,000 on completion.

The announcement was made on the sidelines of an official state visit to the country by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Al Maabar is joining the Latsis Group of Greece and the Chinese firm Fosun to create a Luxembourg-based fund called Global Investment Group.

It will work with Athens-listed Lamda Development in the redevelopment of the former international airport in Hellenikon, Athens.

Construction work on the 6.2 million square metre site is expected to start in 2016. The plans include retail, residential, leisure, hotels and office space arranged around 3.5 kilometres of coastline and a 2 million sq metre park, which has been billed as one of the world’s largest.

“Entering the Greek market is a milestone for us at Al Maabar as we seek to strengthen our reach, broaden our portfolio and develop long-term partnerships,” said Yousef Al Nowais, the managing director of Al Maabar.

“Our business model is designed in a way that we look for opportunities that will ensure sustainable economic benefits for both the development’s host country, and the UAE.”

The Greek government of the prime minister Antonis Samaras is keen to attract foreign investment into infrastructure projects as it seeks to make repayments on bailouts totalling €240bn in the wake of the 2009 European debt crisis which it helped to trigger. Greece is due to pay back €2.5bn in debt this year while raising as much as €6bn from bond sales over the next year.

Al Maabar is an overseas developer backed by some of the big names in property development in the capital, including Mubadala, a strategic investment company owned by the government of Abu Dhabi.

Projects include Bab Al Bahr in Rabat, Morocco and developments in Jordan that include Marsa Zayed in Aqaba and St Regis Amman.

The UAE foreign minister also announced that the Abu Dhabi Investment Council had offered to acquire the Astir Palace Resort in Athens and that Abu Dhabi National Energy Company, better known as Taqa, would team up with Terna Energy to explore potential energy investments in the country, Wam reported.

The disclosures were made at the opening of the second meeting of the UAE-Greece Joint Ministerial Committee in Athens.

scronin@thenational.ae

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