HSBC’s move to new headquarters marks start of an era for Dubai’s financiers

HSBC is to further raise its profile in the UAE with the construction of a US$250 million headquarters in Dubai’s Downtown area as it prepares to move its Middle East business from the Channel Island of Jersey to the emirate later this year.

The 20-storey building will be sited on Emaar Square, next to the headquarters of Standard Chartered.

The new HSBC building will be significantly taller than those of its rivals.

Work will begin soon on the 320,000-square-foot premises, and HSBC hopes to take up occupancy in 2018. When it does, it will mean the bank vacating its existing HQ in the historic Bur Dubai building by Dubai Creek, which has been a centre of banking in the Arabian Gulf for six decades.

Two other existing premises – in Emaar Square and the Lufthansa building on Sheikh Zayed Road – will also be vacated. The new Middle East regional HQ will be in Dubai International Financial Centre.

The new building is being developed by the Irish firm Gulf Resources Development and Investment, and HSBC will buy the freehold of the premises on completion. No financial details are being provided, but industry estimates, based on similar recent transactions in the Downtown area, put the cost at about Dh920m.

Mohammad Al Tuwaijri, the deputy chairman and chief executive of HSBC in Middle East and North Africa said: “HSBC has been present in the Middle East since the late 1800s and became the first bank to open in Dubai in 1946. This state-of-the-art building represents a moment to reflect on this rich regional history of partnership and progress.”

Abdulfattah Sharaf, the chief executive of HSBC in the UAE, said: “The UAE is an established gateway for international trade and capital flows. It is one of HSBC’s global priority markets and home to about 4,000 of our employees. This signature development reflects the UAE’s status as the Middle East’s leading financial capital.”

The vacating of the Bur Dubai HQ will bring a wave of nostalgia from Dubai banking veterans. As the HQ of the old British Bank of the Middle East, Dubai’s first bank, the waterside building played a major role in financing the dredging of Dubai Creek at the end of the 1950s, advancing a loan for part of the project implemented by Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai at the time.

The opening up of the creek was the beginning of Dubai’s transformation into the region’s biggest trading hub.

An HSBC spokesman said the bank would maintain a branch in the Bur Dubai building.

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