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UK firms eye tallest tower

Brits tipped to win work on world record skyscraper as US firms shun the bidding

BRITISH contractors are hot favourites to build the world's tallest tower in Dubai after it emerged that none of the big US skyscraper specialists have made it onto the shortlist.

Balfour Beatty, Carillion and Laing O'Rourke are on a final shortlist of six consortia hoping to win the £400 million-plus construction package on the Burj Dubai tower, which is expected to top 600 m.

UK firms are also likely to dominate the M&E package - thought to be the largest ever let on a single building - with Balfour Kilpatrick, Rotary and Drake & Scull chasing work worth more than £75 million.

While construction manager Turner and architect Skidmore, Owings & Merril are both US-owned, the project's government sponsors fear the tower could be targeted by regional extremists if it is seen to be dominated by US companies.

Attacks on US expatriates in Saudi Arabia have increased in recent weeks, leading to fears that the unrest could spill over into neighbouring countries.

One insider said: 'The American firms definitely won't go out there and in any case, I doubt they would even want a US company on the list.'

The shortlist for the main construction package is understood to include: Balfour Beatty/Paul Y/CCC; Grocon/Dubai Civil Engineering; Al-Habtoor Engineering/Murray & Roberts;

Carillion/Nasa Multiplex; and Samsung/Arabtech.

Laing O'Rourke is thought to be working with local firm Al Naboodah and Hong Kongbased high-rise specialist Hip Hing.

It emerged this week that tower developer Emaar has encountered problems in getting M&E contractors to pre-qualify on the project and has been forced to extend the pre-qualification deadline until June 20.

Contractors have blamed the poor response on tough contractual conditions, which require pre-qualified firms to provide a bond of more than £11 million to ensure they have sufficient financial clout to finish the work.

Cut-throat bidding in Dubai's extremely competitive construction sector is also thought to have deterred some firms from becoming involved.Ahmed Adhvaryu, the estimating director at Drake & Scull's Dubai office, said: 'They are looking for a huge amount as a performance guarantee.'

Earlier this week, Laing O'Rourke approached Northern Ireland-based M&E specialist Rotary to join its bid for the main construction package, which is also thought to include some mechanical and electrical works.

Rotary business development director Ray Auld confirmed that the contractor had made an approach and added that Rotary had already been invited to pre-qualify by Adhvaryu, the estimating director at Drake & Scull's Dubai office, said: 'They are looking for a huge amount as a performance guarantee.'

Earlier this week Laing O'Rourke approached Northern Ireland-based M&E specialist Rotary to join its bid for the main construction package, which is also thought to include some mechanical and electrical works.

Rotary business development director Ray Auld confirmed that the contractor had made an approach and added that Rotary had already been invited to pre-qualify by the client for the main mechanical, electrical and plumbing package.

An Emaar spokesman declined to comment on the project shortlist but said that a main contractor would be chosen 'within a couple of months' The Burj tower will be at least 131 m taller than the current record holder - the 546 m-high Taipei 101 in Taiwan.

Emaar has refused to reveal its exact height through fear of being trumped by any other developers.

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