SmartCity Dubai to lose CFO

SmartCity in Dubai is set to lose its executive director for corporate finance Teddy Maroun.

Mr Maroun has held the position for a year but his contract is not being renewed for 2010. SmartCity Dubai said Mr Maroun left the company in a voluntary and planned manner and has been succeeded by a new executive director as planned.

It has been a frustrating year for SmartCity in many ways. SmartCity Malta has also seen the departure of a number of key personnel, including its CEO and its chief financial officer, although it recently issued the tender for the construction of Infrastructure civil works for Phase One.

And the SmartCity Kochi project is also in jeopardy and may be called off. A week ago, Smart City Dubai served an ultimatum to the Kerala government saying the proposed Rs.1,500-crore Smart City Kochi IT project could not be kept hanging 'endlessly', following a board meeting. The foundation stone for the park at Kochi was laid in 2007 and was to create 90,000 jobs. But the project has ground to a halt because of problems with the allocation of the 12 per cent freehold rights to Smart City Dubai. The Indian chief minister for the state has claimed that the real problem is lack of funds.

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No productive insight in Kochi Smart City IT project impasse

Even as Smart City Dubai last week served an ultimatum to the Kerala government saying the proposed Rs.1,500-crore Smart City Kochi IT project cannot be kept hanging 'endlessly', a board meeting ended Wednesday with differences of opinion continuing between the two partners.

Emerging from the hour-long meeting, Smart City Kochi chairman and State Fisheries Minister S. Sarma told reporters that talks would continue.

'You know there are differences of opinion between us and Smart City Dubai. The chief minister is out of station, and once he returns, we will brief him about what happened today and a date for another round of discussion would be decided,' said Sarma.

Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan had in November 2007 laid the foundation stone for the mega IT park at Kochi -- to be built by Smart City Dubai -- which will come up on a 246-acre plot and is expected to create 90,000 jobs.

But since then, nothing has moved with differences cropping up over granting of 12 percent freehold rights to Smart City Dubai.

While the Dubai partner wants a written agreement that this would be given after the master plan is ready, the government is not ready to give inalienable rights to them.

Fareed Abdulrahman of Smart City Dubai, who is also Smart City Kochi chief executive, said his company wished to make it clear that it did not want freehold land immediately, but only after the master plan was prepared.

'We will make it happen, we will make it happen,' Abdulrahman said.

With both parties hopeful of resolving the issues, it now remains to be seen when the next meeting takes place.

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No decision taken on Smart City Kochi

The director board convened today was not able to solve the dispute between the state government and TECOM in connection with the establishment of the Smart City project. TECOM was firm in their stand of having 12% independent rights.

Smart City chairman S Sarma informed them that they cannot accept their demand. So, the government said that they will inform them after holding talks with the chief minister.

Meantime, the government said they have not decided to move on with the project avoiding TECOM.
Reviving the proposed SmartCity Kochi project that has been in a limbo for sometime now, a meeting of the board of directors of the company has been scheduled at Kovalam on Wednesday at 6.30 p.m.

SmartCity Kochi chief executive officer Fareed Abdulrahman; vice-chairman Rashid Lathif Almullah; and business development manager Mithun Beeru are expected to attend the meeting. This is the sixth director board meeting of SmartCity Kochi, of which Fisheries Minister S. Sarma is the chairman.

The meeting assumes significance amidst reports that the State government was considering a replacement for SmartCity in the project. Also the time fixed by SmartCity, and reiterated many times by Abdulrahman, to see some progress in the project was set to expire this month.

After the last meeting of the board of directors and the subsequent Chief Secretary-level talks in September failed to reach a consensus on a host of contentious issues, the State government kept on repeating that it was working on ways to schedule further talks with the Dubai-based promoters of the project to remove the hurdles hindering the progress of the project.

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Kerala govt ready for talks with Tecom: Kerala CM

The Kerala government Wednesday said it is ready to talk with Dubai-based promoters over the Rs 1,500-crore Kochi SmartCity IT project, which has been delayed by over a year due to land acquisition problems. The Government has informed the Dubai-based Tecom authorities about the steps taken so far in this regard and that it was prepared to hold talks with the firm, Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan said here.

The state government has maintained that Tecom was raising demands which were not in accordance with the agreement. However, Tecom has said it will not wait beyond December 2010 and would be forced to rethink on the project.

Achuthanandan said the date for discussions with Tecom would be later decided.

’December is not a deadline, but it is a point past which we have to rethink about the future of the project’, Smart city CEO Fareed Abdulrahaman had said.

Dispute over the 39 acres ’freehold land’ out of 249 acres allotted for the project has delayed the project for which foundation stone was laid a year ago.

SmartCity insists that freehold land was a contractual right but government says it cannot give away land with selling rights to the promoters to make real estate gains.

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SmartCity Kochi: Kerala Govt. ready for talks with Dubai promoters

The Kerala government said on Wednesday it is ready to talk with Dubai-based promoters over the Rs 1,500-crore (Rs 15-billion) Kochi SmartCity IT project, which has been delayed by over a year due to land acquisition problems.

The government has informed the Dubai-based Tecom authorities about the steps taken so far in this regard and that it was prepared to hold talks with the firm, chief minister V S Achuthanandan told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram.

The state government has maintained that Tecom was raising demands which were not in accordance with the agreement.

However, Tecom has said it will not wait beyond December 2010 and would be forced to rethink on the project.

Achuthanandan said the date for discussions with Tecom would be later decided. 'December is not a deadline, but it is a point past which we have to rethink about the future of the project', Smart city CEO Fareed Abdulrahaman had said.

Dispute over the 39 acres 'freehold land' out of 249 acres allotted for the project has delayed the project for which foundation stone was laid a year ago.

SmartCity insists that freehold land was a contractual right but government says it cannot give away land with selling rights to the promoters to make real estate gains.

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Smart City Kochi:Tecom Dubai serves ultimatum to Kerala government

Smart City Dubai Monday served an ultimatum to the Kerala government, saying the Rs.1,500 crore Smart City Kochi project cannot be kept hanging in the balance “endlessly”.

In a statement issued here, Smart City Dubai said “we have to rethink about the future of the project”.

“But as mentioned earlier decisions can be taken within minutes and there is no point waiting endlessly or delaying this far. Our commitment to Kerala and the people of Kerala is important to us and we hope to begin the project soon.”

Smart City Dubai also said they have always welcomed discussions for speedy progress of the project so that issues could be sorted out and bottlenecks removed.

“In fact, the last round of talks held with the Kerala government was on Oct 1, 2009. We are yet to receive any invitation from them for any other discussions. Moreover, we have sent an invitation to Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan for him to visit Dubai so that issues may be discussed and sorted out. We have not received any response to the invitation,” said Smart City Dubai.

On the contentious 12 percent freehold issue over which the project is hanging fire, it said that the framework agreement was “crystal clear” in its provision for freehold for Smart City Kochi, an Indian company with the Kerala government as its partner. The agreement is available in the public domain for anyone to examine, the statement added.

“We have constantly assured Kerala that the land will be used for the good of the state. Yet, we are unable to understand the reasons or intentions behind delaying the project in this manner. We have made no new demands on this issue. In fact, Smart City has not asked for the freehold land to be transferred to us right now.

“As per the framework agreement, the land is to be transferred only after the master plan has been completed. Smart City Kochi has only asked for assurance that when the master plan is over, freehold will be provided. The assurance has been requested in the form of a letter or by incorporating this into the second lease. The project is certainly being delayed despite our best efforts to communicate with them to sort out issues,” reads the statement.

The company was reacting to the recent statement by Achuthanandan that not an inch of land given to it can be sold. Achuthanandan has said in case the company is unable to abide by the agreement then Kerala will have to look for other options.

Achuthanandan had laid the foundation stone for the Smart City Kochi project in November 2007. It is proposed to come up in a 246 acre plot.

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It’s a 'take it or leave it' moment for Dubai-based Tecom Investments, as it gears up for the final round of talks with Kerala government to end the deadlock over the IT infrastructure joint venture Smartcity in Kochi. As if the gloom of Dubai debt woes was not enough, Tecom is likely to face the humiliation of its mantelpiece Indian investment in the $400-million Indian project to be passed over to other aspiring investors.

When asked about the offer from Muthoot Pappachan Group, chief minister VS Achuthanandan said, “There is no dearth of potential investors for Kochi Smartcity, at this point. Including one of the top firms in the US, there has been quite a few investors keen to take up the project, if Dubai Tecom backs out." Muthoot Pappachan Group had announced its interest to substitute the Dubai partner in the Smartcity venture, in case Tecom backs out.

The 8.8-million sq ft IT infrastructure plan, envisaging 90,000 direct jobs in 10 years, had been dragging feet for the last two years, with both partners- Kerala government and Dubai Tecom- often slipping into a war of words. Farid Abdul Rahman, CEO, SmartCity Kochi, points out the state government gives no assurance that 12% of the land meant for the project would be freehold.

Meanwhile, the Gulf-based investors, who had competed with Tecom, right before it inked the Smartcity MoU in 2007, do not anymore enjoy deep pockets. For instance, Dubai-based Emmar group, world's largest real estate developer (in terms of market capitalisation), had, then, offered to invest in IT infrastructure in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram through its Indian arm Emmar-MGF. Significantly, chief minister was cautious at this juncture not to reiterate his familiar refrain that Tecom was short of resources. Asked if the Dubai financial crisis could hit Kochi's dream project, Achuthananthan said, "There is no need to drag it into the SmartCity picture." Only last week, Tecom came out with a rejoinder to Achuthananthan for his earlier comments that the Dubai firm's financial state was pathetic. "Comments that may question our commitment or our legal obligations towards this very important project are misplaced,", SmartCity Kochi CEO said. To demonstrate the financial stability, the company even invited Kerala chief minister to visit its Dubai business facility. In response, the government invited Tecom for talks on the freehold-dispute. This time, the Dubai firm has agreed to call on Kerala...

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The Kerala government today said it would hold talks with TECOM Investments, the Dubai based joint venture partner of an industry cluster project in Kochi, for implementing the project sanctioned in 2007.

Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan told reporters after a Cabinet meeting that talks would be held for "one more time" with TECOM, a member of Dubai Holding, but insisted that the financial crisis in Dubai had nothing to do with the lack of progress in the SmartCity IT park project.

Asked whether the Dubai financial crisis would hinder progress of the Rs 1,500 crore project, he said there was no need to bring that into the picture.

The SmartCity

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