2 aug 11  | Financial Times

Saudi Arabia plans world's tallest tower

by Abeer Allam

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s investment vehicle, Kingdom Holding, has announced that an associate company will partner with the country’s Bin Laden Group to build a tower near Jeddah that would replace Dubai’s 828m Burj Khalifa as the world’s tallest building.

The associate company, Jeddah Economic Co, signed the SR4.6bn ($1.23bn) contract with the Bin Laden Group, a construction company, that will also own a 16.63 per cent stake in the company. Kingdom Co will hold 33.35 per cent.

The 1km-tall building will include a Four Seasons hotel and apartments, luxury condominiums and offices. The tower is the first phase of the 5.3m square metre Kingdom City development to be built north of the Red Sea city of Jeddah, according to a statement on the Saudi bourse, Tadawul.

Construction is due to start shortly and is expected to take just over five years. The design was inspired by a desert plant.

The SR100bn Kingdom City development was unveiled shortly after the global financial crisis in 2008. Analysts then raised doubts over Kingdom Holding’s ability to generate funding or investors’ interest amid a global real estate crisis.

Last year Kingdom signed up US-based Adrian Smith & Gordon Gill Architecture to design the building. The company’s previous projects include the Burj Khalifa, the Mao Tower in Shanghai and Pearl River Tower in Guangzhou.

Kingdom Holding posted a 21 per cent rise in second-quarter net profit, buoyed by higher income from its global investments. Jeddah Economic Co’s capital is made up of SR8.8bn in land, SR7.3bn in other assets and SR1.5bn in cash.

Started in 1979, Kingdom has evolved from a real estate and construction business into a diversified holding company with a broad range of assets from media to banking and hotels.

Prince Alwaleed, a nephew of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, controls 95 per cent of Kingdom Holding. With a net worth of nearly $20bn, he is the richest Arab businessman. His investments include substantial stakes in News Corp, Citigroup and Apple, as well as several luxury hotels.