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Al Jaber secures Masdar deal

Bradley Hope and Chris Stanton

  • Last Updated: February 10. 2009 12:57AM UAE / February 9. 2009 8:57PM GMT

The Masdar Institute under construction at the Masdar City development in Abu Dhabi. Stephen Lock / The National.

Al Jaber Group, an Abu Dhabi-based construction and diversified holding firm, has won a contract worth up to US$1.6 billion (Dh5.87bn) to build infrastructure for the emirate�s signature zero-carbon city, a top company official said on Monday.

The deal was one of the first construction contracts to be announced for Masdar and represented a rare bright spot for a sector in which companies were rethinking projects to survive the economic downturn, executives from Al Jaber Group said on the sidelines of a construction conference in the capital.

The group will install utilities and provide basic services over three years for Masdar City, the $22bn development being built on the edge of the capital, according to Fatima Obaid al Jaber, the company�s chief operating officer.

Masdar officials said yesterday that $500 million of the deal with Al Jaber had been confirmed, but this could potentially be extended up to $1.6bn.
Contractors for Masdar City are required to make the construction process as environmentally sustainable as possible.

Power for the construction process, for example, will be supplied in part by a 10-megawatt photovoltaic solar array.
�We see promise in the fact that Al Jaber, an Abu Dhabi-based company, is playing a leading role in bringing sustainable construction practices to Abu Dhabi,� a Masdar spokesman said. �Masdar City aims to uphold the highest sustainability standards and Al Jaber Group is a testament to the possibilities local companies have to play a part in the development of a new sector in the local economy.�

Khaled Awad, the head of Masdar�s property development unit, said the economic downturn presented opportunities for the company to retain the best contractors on the market.

�The downturn is real. We cannot deny it,� he said. �But in some ways it is good. We are able to get contractors now who are interested in sustainable building.�

Masdar, which is wholly owned by Mubadala Development, is pushing on with the first phase of development of the city, estimated to cost between $5.5bn and $6bn. It is scheduled to be completed by 2011, according to Sultan al Jaber, the chief executive of Masdar.

This autumn, the Masdar Institute, an energy research university founded in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is on schedule to open for classes. Headquarters for Masdar will be next, set for completion between 2010 and 2011.

Mr al Jaber said he was looking to move Masdar�s staff to temporary buildings on the city site later this year.

�Everything we do here feeds into the city development, and we all need to be together,� he said. �To live the journey you have be on site to feel things, see things develop, feel the ground shaking; it gives you a different flavour of what�s really happening on the ground.�

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