Jan. 5 (Bloomberg) --
Dubai renamed the world’s tallest building in honor of the ruler of less than a month after receiving a $10 billion lifeline from the neighboring emirate that defused a financial crisis. Abu Dhabi
The 200-story Burj Khalifa, or
, was known until yesterday as Burj Dubai. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who has ruled Khalifa Tower Abu Dhabi since 2004, is also president of the . United Arab Emirates
“Sheikh Khalifa is one of the U.A.E.’s symbols,” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, chairman of Dubai’s Supreme Fiscal Committee and an uncle of Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The decision to change the name, made by Sheikh Mohammed, reflects the unity of the federation, he said in an interview after the building’s official opening, which featured fireworks and parachutists descending from the top of the tower.
The move also underscores the changing fortunes within the
. United Arab Emirates
The federal government and its largest member,
Abu Dhabi, lent about $25 billion last year as the second-largest of the U.A.E.’s sheikhdoms sought help to pay its debts after it borrowed at least $80 billion to build itself into a financial and tourism hub. Dubai
“There is no doubt that the success of the U.A.E. is the direct result of Sheikh Khalifa’s vision,” said
billionaire Abdul Aziz al-Ghurair, owner of Mashreqbank PSC. “He is the one credited for the civil and economic progress and Sheikh Mohammed renamed the Burj as acknowledgment.” Dubai
Sheikh Mohammed appeared at the opening on big screens erected around the Burj area, where thousands of
residents had gathered to watch the spectacle. Dubai
The new name is “very appropriate,” said Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al-Nahyan, U.A.E. minister of higher education and scientific research and a member of Abu Dhabi’ ruling family. “Who else should it be named after except the president of the U.A.E.?”
Construction of Burj Khalifa began in 2004 by Emaar Properties PJSC, which is 30 percent owned by the
government. Emaar, the biggest developer in the Middle East and Dubai Africa by assets, aimed to make the area surrounding the Burj the city’s new center, benefiting from the development’s proximity to the Dubai International Financial Centre.
During the five years of the tower’s construction,
’s property market went from the world’s best performing to the worst. The collapse of global credit markets led to a 50 percent decline in Dubai ’s property prices and fueled concern some of The project cost $1.5 billion to build, said Mohammed Alabbar, chairman of developer Emaar Properties PJSC. While mainly residential, the building will have 37 floors of office and retail space. Dubai
The Burj’s occupancy rate may reach 75 percent this year, with office leasing proving the biggest challenge for investors, said Roy Cherry, an analyst at investment bank Shuaa Capital PSC.
“Those who bought with the intention of leasing will face a difficult time because few companies today can justify paying premiums for luxury,” Cherry said.
Burj Khalifa has a height of 828 meters (2,717 feet), Alabbar said in a telephone interview. Apartment prices in the tower, formerly known as Burj Dubai, have fallen to less than half of the 10,000 dirhams ($2,700) a square foot that they reached at the 2008 peak.
“It may still run at a premium to the rest of the market but I’d be surprised if there were no defaults and if vacancy rates didn’t creep up,” since a large proportion of the developer’s sales were financed through mortgages, said Saud Masud, a Dubai-based analyst at UBS AG. “This is a symbol of the economic momentum that
had and an ironic reminder of its property bubble.” Dubai
tower “is the most expensive square footage in the region and I’m not sure in the current downturn that will translate into strong residential or commercial demand, despite the prestige factor,” Masud said. Dubai
The residential part of the building will have fitness facilities, a library, a cigar club, valet parking and a gourmet market, according to the tower’s Web site. The goal is an “unparalleled lifestyle experience,” the site says.
The building has some of the highest maintenance fees in
Dubai at 80 dirhams to 90 dirhams per square foot annually, according to property broker Better Homes. Fees in the surrounding area average about 18 to 20 dirhams. Dubai
“This is a building with many unique components which could cost a lot more than usual to maintain or replace,” Shuaa’s Cherry said.
Designed by Chicago-based Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP, the structure overtook
101 as the world’s tallest in February. Emaar delayed completion of the project by more than a year because the interior had to be redesigned. The tower has 200 floors, more than 160 of which will be occupied, Alabbar told reporters at a press conference in the building. Taipei
Tourists and residents gathered in the area surrounding the Burj, which links to Dubai Mall and the world’s biggest fountain, hours before the opening started at 8 p.m. local time.
Roads leading up to the tower were clogged, forcing residents of the Downtown development to leave work early in order to get home. Sultan al-Falasi, a 35-year-old businessman from
, reserved a suite in the Address Hotel facing the Burj and invited friends to watch the fireworks. Dubai
“This makes me proud to call
home,” he said in the hotel lobby. “It shows that despite the circumstances, we are capable of finishing such an important landmark.” Dubai
The centerpiece of the $20 billion Downtown Dubai project includes 37 office floors, 1,044 apartments and 160 hotel rooms designed by Giorgio Armani. It also has the world’s highest mosque and swimming pools on the 158th and 76th floors. Emaar said it expects 12,000 people to live or work in the tower and connected office buildings.
Burj Khalifa is located halfway between the city’s older districts of Deira and Bur Dubai and newly developed communities in the
and Emirates Hills. Emaar aimed to make the Downtown area the city’s new center, benefiting from the development’s proximity to the Marina . The DIFC, as it’s known, is a tax-free business park that houses hundreds of companies. Dubai International Financial Center
The Burj building’s first Armani Residences will be handed over next month, followed by the Armani Hotel a month later. The first residents won’t move in until February.
Emaar will start handing keys to the buyers of another 900 apartments and offices in March, it said in a statement.
Emaar sold 90 percent of the properties in the tower prior to its completion and years before the global financial crisis caused banks to curtail mortgage lending, Alabbar said. Emaar achieved a return of 10 percent on its investment.
Tall Tower, as the Burj is known locally, was started in 2004, two years after first allowed foreigners to own property. The law sparked a six-year boom fueled by speculators. Dubai
For investors like Dilip Daswani, who bought directly from Emaar, the tower still represents a good investment. The 45- year-old Briton paid Emaar 2,563 dirhams a square foot. He earned a 40 percent profit on one property sold two years after the purchase. The two-bedroom apartment he still owns cost about $1.2 million in 2004 and Daswani is now asking for $1.9 million.
Less lucky investors bought apartments for as much as 10,000 dirhams a square foot at the peak. Brokers surveyed by Bloomberg estimated the current price at about 4,100 dirhams.
Emaar, 30 percent owned by the government, reported a third-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates after it completed sales on high margin homes ahead of schedule. By contrast Dubai World, the parent company of rival developer Nakheel PSJC, is seeking to alter terms on about $26 billion of debt. Dubai World repaid $4.1 billion on an Islamic bond from Nakheel last month after
Dubai received a $10 billion loan from the government. Abu Dhabi
“The Burj will be right there with
’s other architectural achievements, Burj al Arab and Palm Jumeirah,” UBS’s Masud said. “The other two came out ahead of the economic crisis but this one is opening in the middle of it.” Dubai
The tower is surrounded by a man-made lake, where the world’s tallest fountains gush every night to the sound of opera, Arabian and Indian music. The complex includes a shopping mall and several hotels.
Many buyers in the residential part of the tower are wealthy individuals from the Middle East,
India and who bought apartments as vacation homes or as an investment, said Jesse Downs, director of research and advisory services at Dubai-based Landmark Advisory. Pakistan
“They are people who can hold onto it comfortably for the next five to 10 years,”
Downs said. “So even if apartments remain empty and lights switched off at night, that doesn’t mean the units are for sale in the market.”