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Wednesday, 23 January 2008

London Shard skyscraper wins financial backing from Qatari consortium

LONDON, Jan 22 (Reuters) - The "Shard of Glass" development, one of London's most high-profile skyscraper projects, came a step closer to being built on Tuesday after a Qatari consortium agreed to finance the 2 billion pound ($3.88 billion) scheme.
The consortium comprises equal shareholdings of the Qatari Islamic Investment bank QInvest, Sellar Property Group, Qatar National Bank, Qatari Islamic Bank and Barwa, a statement said, after the acquisition of stakes held by CLS Holdings and the family trust of entrepreneur Simon Halabi.
QInvest Chief Executive Professor Abdul Latif Almeer said the development, near London Bridge just south of the City financial district, would " undoubtedly be Europe's most recognisable commercial property landmark."
"Our investment in this 2 billion pounds development not only reflects our admiration for what has already been achieved in getting the scheme to its present level, but also underpins our confidence in the London commercial real estate market," he said.
The news brings to an end months of speculation concerning the future of the development, which has been dogged by financing problems since the onset of the credit crisis last year.
With investment now secured, developer Sellar Property Group said it was confident it could fast-track completion of the scheme by the end of 2011.
But there are concerns that the 2 million square foot project could tip a fragile balance between office space supply and demand in London's financial district, as occupier take-up falters and banking sector job cuts mount.
Two major pre-lets have already been signed for the London Bridge Tower component of the scheme, with Shangri-La Hotels taking almost 200,000 square feet of space and Transport for London (TfL) contracted to occupy 190,000 square feet of office accommodation.
It is estimated that development of London Bridge Quarter will cost up to 1.4 billion pounds, with the majority of the initial construction finance provided by the Qatari consortium.
At 310 metres, London Bridge Tower will be Europe's tallest mixed-use skyscraper, the developer said.

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