Dubai World scales back Africa project plans

DUBAI Wed Aug 5, 2009 5:12am EDT

DUBAI Aug 5 (Reuters) - State-owned conglomerate Dubai World said on Wednesday it has put on hold several of its projects in Africa, the latest delays from the firm as it restructures due to the global economic downturn.

The ports and property group faces challenges to revamp operations and finances before the end of the year when a $3.5 billion Islamic bond for its subsidiary Nakheel matures.

In June, it hired AlixPartners, the turnaround experts who are advising on the General Motors (GM.N) bankruptcy, to help restructure its business.

"Dubai World has put on hold a number of projects until the market improves, including some tourism projects in Africa and elsewhere," a company spokesman said in an e-mailed statement, without giving further details.

Dubai World's chairman, Sultan Ahmed by Sulayem, said in May it would complete all projects under construction, but would delay any new developments. [ID:nL3225650]

Its African unit said at the time it was investing in a wildlife game reserve in Zimbabwe and in March said it had bought three South African wildlife game parks, to boost its exposure to Africa's tourism industry. [ID:nL3212449]

Abu Dhabi daily The National reported earlier on Wednesday Dubai World planned about $1.5 billion of investments in Africa.

The firm has said it would invest about $100 million in Ethiopia and was investing $230 million in Rwandan projects, including two luxury hotels.

Property unit Nakheel has been hit hard by the financial downturn and last month cut 400 more jobs in addition to 500 cuts it made last year as the Gulf emirate's once-booming property sector suffers a sharp slowdown.

In July, it said it was mulling moving luxury liner the Queen Elizabeth 2 from the emirate to another location having originally planned to convert it into a luxury hotel and dock it off one of the palm-shaped island's off Dubai's coastline.

House prices have fallen 50 percent from their peak in the third quarter last year, property consultants Colliers International said in a report on Monday. [ID:nL3589514]

Dubai World also owns port operator DP World DPW.DI and Istithmar World, the owner of high-end retailer Barneys New York. (Reporting by Jason Benham; Editing by John Irish and Hans Peters)