By Angela Giuffrida  www.thenational.ae

Contractors aiming to build what could become the tallest tower in the world have been asked to resubmit their bids after design changes were made.

At least two contenders will place new offers for the 1.1km-high Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia next month, making it the third time in a year the project has been re-tendered.

Six Construct, a Belgian companythat helped to build Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest tower in the world, is bidding for the contract in partnership with El Seif Engineering Contracting, a Saudi Arabian company.

Saudi Bin Laden Group, one of the biggest construction companies in the region, is also bidding for the project, which is in Jeddah.

A senior member of staff at one of the contenders, who asked not to be named, said the size of the building’s podium had been reduced.

“They’re still going for the same height though … A new offer has to be submitted in the second half of August.”

The tower would eclipse the 818-metre high Burj Khalifa. It is being planned by Kingdom Holding, the business conglomerate owned by the Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

The tower has been mooted for a number of years although progress has been slow, prompting speculation on whether it would see the light of day.

It is designed to form part of Kingdom City, a development with an estimated construction cost of US$26.6 billion (Dh97.7bn).

Bids were originally placed last summer but contractors were later asked to revise their prices and resubmit their offers in April because of the financial crisis and subsequent fall in construction costs.

The UAE’s Arabtec Construction and its South Korean partner, Samsung, which also helped build Burj Khalifa, initially made an offer for the project but pulled out earlier this year due to “various reasons associated with the requirements”, Tom Barry, the chief executive of Arabtec Construction, said in April.

Saudi Oger, a major Saudi contractor, placed a bid in April but it is unclear if the company is still vying for the project. The company’s vice president Ali Kolaghassi could not be reached for comment yesterday.

After a slowdown at the start of the financial crisis towards the end of 2008, spending in Saudi Arabia’s construction sector rose 13 per cent to $43bn last year and further growth is expected as the government invests heavily in infrastructure and banks gradually reopen their credit lines, according to a report by the kingdom’s National Commercial Bank (NCB) released earlier this week.

Expenditure is expected to grow to $50bn this year, the report added, as developers attempt to ease a housing shortage.

Another 1.4 million homes may be needed over the next 10 years as the country’s population grows to an expected 33 million by 2020, according to figures from the property consultancy CB Richard Ellis.

The rebound in the construction sector comes after $52bn worth of projects were delayed or cancelled last year as the economic downturn took hold and banks curtailed lending.

“The crisis brought about the first decline in the construction sector’s borrowing activities in 2009 since 2001, with total bank credit to this sector declining by nearly 17.7 per cent to 44.7bn Saudi riyals [Dh43.78bn],” the NCB report said.

However, while spending continues to grow, the progress of projects has been hampered by contract re-tendering and a shortage of qualified contractors for big developments, the report added.

agiuffrida@thenational.ae

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