UK invades Panama
UK real estate firm London and Regional Properties beat out 16 groups to win the developments rights for a 2,750-acre site on the Panama Canal. The property was formerly the Howard Air Force Base.
According to press reports, the $700 million (€533 million) development, which will be built over the next 40 years, will include new port and logistics facilities, taking advantage of its proximity to the canal, the on-site airstrip and its position near the Pan-American highway, which connects North and South America. The site will also reportedly include residential units, hotels, a golf course and a science park. London and Regional are teaming up with Panamanian developers Isaac and Jaime Gilinski on the project.
The government of Panama had asked the World Bank to run an auction seeking a developer for the base and bidders included Florida's Codina Group and Cabi Control of Mexico, as well as Miami-based Easton Group, which made it to the final round with London and Regional.
The French began digging the canal in the late 1800s, but eventually abandoned the mammoth undertaking. The US began work in 1904 and completed the canal in 1914. Full control of the canal was ceded to the Panamanians on December 31, 1999 and it is now under the auspices of the Panama Canal Authority, while the port operations have been contracted to Hong Kong's Hutchison Whampoa. The US Air Force stopped using the Howard base eight years ago.
The city of tomorrow today
The Dubai Investment Park has attracted more than $5.4 billion (€4.1 billion) of capital for residential projects, with seven major complexes scheduled for construction in 2007. The development, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dubai Investments, is a collection of housing projects that will feature 19,392 residential units upon completion in 2010.
Many of the various high-end residential projects sport a theme: The Palisades development includes housing designed in the Georgian, Regency and Victorian styles, while the Ritaj sports a networked community with shops, cafes, a mosque and entertainment options. Another development, Dunes Village, plans to meld modern amenities with traditional values, while the Dubai Lagoon will feature apartments and walkways surrounded by a lagoon.
More than 30,000 residents already live in the two completed projects: the Ewan Residence, featuring 75 properties, and the Green Community, which offers residents a car-less community with cobbled streets and manicured gardens.
Tapping the private market
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site of the World Trade Center, is reportedly talking to private equity real estate firms and hedge funds about investing $3 billion (€2.3 billion) in the Freedom Tower. The firm is also reportedly in talks to sell development rights for one of the five buildings on the site to investment bank JP Morgan.
So far the redevelopment project, which is being funded by insurance proceeds and government money, has struggled financially.
“Certainly you're not going to find a better time to try to sell that equity interest,” Robert Sammons, director of research at Colliers, told The Wall Street Journal. According to figures released by Cushman and Wakefield in January, office leasing activity in downtown Manhattan hit 5.6 million square feet in 2006—the highest since the terrorist attacks and a 64 percent increase over 2005.
Federal and state governments have leased 1 million square feet of the 2.6 million square feet of office space in the centerpiece Freedom Tower, which is now under construction.
Indian conglomerate Bharti Enterprises is planning to invest up to $2.5 billion (€1.9 billion) alongside US discount retailer Wal-Mart in a chain of supermarkets and stores in India. How the stores will be branded and how much capital Wal-Mart is committing to the venture is unknown, but Bharti, which is involved in telecom and insurance, may be expanding its other businesses into the new line of stores.
“Not only the telecom services, but the group also has interest in life insurance and there is a possibility that these facilities might be made available to customers through our retail channel,” Bharti Retail chief Vinod Sawhney told the local press.
Wal-Mart and Bharti announced the deal last year and it is widely seen as a way for the US company to get around government restrictions concerning foreign ownership in the Indian retail sector. The investment will be spread over the next eight years and could create as many as 60,000 jobs, according to Bharti.