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Project finance: Abu Dhabi taps its own funds

Although the oil-rich emirate does not need other people’s money to finance big-ticket projects, it has shown an increasing appetite for project finance, reports Mark Ford in Abu Dhabi.

First Gulf bank offers long-term hedge

By Mark Ford

 ABU DHABI’S growing wealth – both of its government and its people – has given the emirate a problem. Not content with returns from cash deposits, nor are they so keen on investments overseas since 9/11 changed the political picture in the Gulf for good. It is time to invest close to home, and a progressive new leadership with positive attitudes towards economic diversification and commercial participation is making the wealthiest member of the United Arab Emirates a land of project opportunities.

Flagship projects such as the massive real estate developments at Al-Raha beach and Al-Reem island, two industrial cities emerging near the UAE’s capital city, and ambitious expansion plans in the upstream and downstream oil and gas sectors are attracting the attention of project finance specialists. They caution, however, that Abu Dhabi is no ordinary investment location.

“A whole range of projects are currently on the drawing board or in the pipeline, and these total well over $100 billion, but not all of these are likely to come to fruition in the time-frame that is being talked about,” says Michael Ladenburg, head of corporate banking at National Bank of Abu Dhabi, who suggests that “some could be crowded out by other projects, while others could be financed elsewhere”.

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