from The Economist..
May 11, 2013 | RIYADH
The Saudi capital is unlikely to become an alternative to Dubai any time soon.
THE glass-clad skyscrapers are reaching ever higher into Riyadh’s dusty sky. The first tenants are due to move to the King Abdullah Financial District in the Saudi capital’s north-west later this year. But they may well find it a lonely place: enthusiasm is clearly lacking for the development, which boasts 42 buildings and 900,000 square metres of office space—similar in scale to London’s Canary Wharf.
Granted, new office districts often take time to come to life. Canary Wharf had to battle against sceptics for many years before becoming the success it is today. But it is unclear how Riyadh’s new district will develop into what it is meant to be: a sober Saudi alternative to Dubai’s exuberant International Financial Centre.
To date just 10% of the district’s office space has been leased; tenants will include the country’s stockmarket regulator, the Capital Markets Authority, and one large local bank, Samba.
More important, so many near-empty buildings will be a political embarrassment, in particular since the new district carries the king’s name. Authorities may yet lean on the banks to move. Optimism and market forces alone will certainly not be enough to fill all the space.