BurJuman Centre has shortlisted eight banks for financing Dh500 million of its Dh1.2 billion project expansion, Majid Saif Al Ghurair, president, announced yesterday. "We have made excellent progress in placing Dh500 million of debt against the Dh700 million equity entailed in our expansion project," he said.

Locally-based financial consultancy Executive Consultants, has structured the deal and led negotiations with the banks. The mandate is expected to be awarded within two weeks, with documentation finalisation and formal signing on the expansion likely by September.

Among the banks shortlisted are National Bank of Dubai, Emirates Bank International, Citibank, Mashreqbank, National Bank of Abu Dhabi and Barclays. Al Ghurair added that work has already started on the expansion.

"BurJuman is already in demand by retailers and shoppers alike as a premium, award-winning shopping destination. The expansion has engendered even stronger interest." He pointed out that investments in retail-cum-leisure projects is an integral part of the government's tourism initiative.

Eisa Adam, general manager of the shopping complex, noted that the best professionals have been employed on all aspects of the expansion project, aimed at transforming the centre into a total leisure destination by March 2003.

"Financing was no exception," he observed. Appointed in March 2001 to conduct financial review of the project, structure the financing requirements, lead negotiations with banks and provide advice on interest rate risk management, Executive Consultants "has secured funding for the project and substantially reduced our anticipated financing costs".

Sameer Al Ansari, president and CEO of the consultancy, reiterated that the feedback from the banks has been positive, with several indicating their preference to lead the syndicate and underwrite the entire amount.

"The pricing is very good for a project of this size, value and tenor, and is a positive reflection of the confidence the banks have in the project and the group," he said, while indicating fuller details would be issued shortly.

The BurJuman project expansion includes an additional 375,000 square feet of office space, 163 luxury condominiums and furnished apartments, 500,000 square feet of leasable retail space, leisure arcades, speciality restaurants, entertainment halls, nine cinema halls, a spacious food court, health club and 3,200 vehicle parking slots.

Established in December 2000, Executive Consultants helps young and growing companies with their funding requirements with financial and management consultancy, corporate finance services, and valuation and feasibility studies.

The local company operates out of Dubai Media City, with its client roster including Tejari.com, Dubai Ideas Oasis, and others in Europe and North America, apart from the UAE.