A consortium of three Saudi and Emirati companies plans to build a US$26.7 billion (euro22.4 billion) city on the Saudi Arabian seaside that is being called the largest-ever private development in the kingdom's history. The planned city, dubbed King Abdullah City, will send skyscrapers, wharves, warehouses and housing sprawling across 55 square kilometers (21 square miles), including 35 kilometers (20 miles) of Red Sea coastline, just north of the kingdom's commercial hub of Jeddah.
Overseeing the project will be Dubai-based developing giant Emaar Properties, along with Saudi construction partners Binladin Group and real estate firm Assir, according to a release issued Tuesday. The consortium plans to raise 30 percent of the development costs through an initial public stock offering.
The Binladin Group is owned by the family of Osama bin Laden, which has publicly cut its ties with the al-Qaida leader. The group is one of the kingdom's largest construction company, involved in multiple projects in the region.
The King Abdullah City project was launched in Riyadh on Tuesday in a glittering gathering of Saudi and Emirati royalty in gold-trimmed robes, presided over by Saudi King Abdullah and Dubai Crown Prince Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the intellectual architect of Dubai's building boom.
Sheik Mohammed said the planned city would be "a shining example of what can be achieved for the common good when two brotherly nations get together."
In typical regional fashion, construction near the industrial city of Rabegh was to begin Wednesday, immediately following the surprise announcement, with plans calling for some businesses and residents to move in within 24 to 36 months.
Saudi officials said the project, which aims to create 500,000 jobs, is part of the country's drive to attract foreign investment and diversify its economy beyond its almost total dependence on crude oil exports. The kingdom, beset by high unemployment of locals, this year became a member of the World Trade Organization.
Development plans include a giant Red Sea port that can handle the world's largest vessels, while providing a strategic hub on busy shipping lanes and easy access to Arabian cities.
Renderings show a skyscraper-studded financial center built on an artificial island off the coast, as well as a beach resort and an industrial zone, reports the AP. I.L.