Mega-project for Abu Dhabi’s Eagle Hills in Belgrade

Abu Dhabi’s Eagle Hills has signed a deal to develop a vast site in the Serbian capital of Belgrade that will be home to the biggest mall in the Balkans.

Mohamed Alabbar, the chairman of Emaar Properties and also a board member of Eagle Hills, yesterday signed the deal with the Serbian government to redevelop 1.8 million square metres of central Belgrade.

The project, which would take more than 30 years to complete, includes a 140,000 square metre shopping mall that would be the biggest in the Balkans; 5,700 homes to accommodate 14,000 people, eight hotels comprising a total of 2,200 rooms and a 200-metre high tower.

The Serbian prime minister Aleksandar Vucic presented the project to the Serbian parliament this month.

Eagle Hills will own 68 per cent of the multibillion euro project, while the Serbian government will own the remaining 32 per cent.

Under the terms of the contract, the Serbian government will grant Eagle Hills a 99-year lease on land for the regeneration scheme under the proviso that 50 per cent of the project must be completed within 20 years.

In return, the Abu Dhabi-based investor will provide €150 million (Dh599.1m) of cash investment to the mega-project as well as another €150m as a shareholder loan. The company will also lend the Serbian government another €130m to buy packages of land in the development area which it does not already own and to clean up the area.

Construction work on the project, which is said to create 20,000 jobs, will start after the contract has been approved by Serbia’s competition regulator with a first phase including a 22-storey mixed-use tower.

Eagle Hills hopes to develop the project in partnership with Serbian developers.

Eagle Hills has been quietly recruiting former Emaar executives and last year merged with Al Maabar, a joint venture founded by Abu Dhabi’s largest developers.

The Eagle Hills website said that Al Maabar became a subsidiary in October.

Al Maabar was founded as a joint venture under the direction of the Abu Dhabi Government and created by Aldar Properties, Al Qudra Real Estate, Sorouh Real Estate, Mubadala Development, Reem International and Al Reem Investments in 2007.

Yesterday’s news underscores growing commercial ties between Abu Dhabi and Belgrade, which has yielded millions of dollars of investment for Serbia’s crisis-hit economy and provided Abu Dhabi-based companies with expansion opportunities.

Last April the Abu Dhabi government signed an agreement with Serbia to lend the indebted Balkan country US$1 billion. In August 2013 Etihad Airways acquired a 49 per cent stake in Serbia’s loss-making Jat Airways, which was rebranded as Air Serbia.

And in January 2013 Arabtec Holding, which is controlled by Abu Dhabi fund Aabar, announced it would open a regional headquarters in Belgrade to drive its expansion into the Balkans.

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Lucy Barnard

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