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Hong Kong investors buy into Dubai Pearl skyscraper

Yousef Gamal El-Din

A Hong Kong-based group has taken a big leap into the booming Dubai property market, acquiring property assets valued at $1.9 billion of the troubled Dubai Pearl project.

Chow Tai Fook Endowment Industry Investment Development (CTFE) said it would use part of the purchase in the 20 million square feet mixed-use development for the company, while the other part would be resold to CTFE clients "seeking good rental returns as well as property value appreciation".

Located near the entrance of the Palm Jumeirah, the project is also a stark reminder of stalled futuristic developments announced before the collapse of the property market in 2009 that have yet to be finished.

Pearl Dubai FZ LLC, a consortium of investors led by Abu Dhabi's Al Fahim Group, "bought and repositioned" the $4 billion Dubai Pearl development in 2007. At the time, the expected date of completion was slated for 2011, then delayed to 2013.

(Read more: Is Malaysia's property market headed for a Dubai-style crash?)

Omnix Group launched the project as far back as 2002, and at one stage involved investors such as Saudi Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal's Kingdom Holding Company.

When Pearl Dubai FZ LLC took over, changes to the master plan meant most of the existing structures had to be demolished.

Over a decade on, investors are still waiting. But the $.1.9 billion infusion of capital from China could mark a turning point.

In a joint statement, the two companies described the transaction as a "significant new milestone for Dubai Pearl" . The firm plans to begin the handover by the end of 2017.

CTFE's investment in Dubai may only be the continuation of a wider trend. "We expect most institutional commitments from overseas as rental and capital values continue to grow," Nick Maclean, Managing Director, CBRE Middle East, told CNBC.

(Read more: Why this city's prime property will outperform global peers)

Last October, CBRE noted that Asian institutional investors were looking to invest $150 billion in global real estate over the next five years, with Dubai a key destination.

On Monday, a report by property consultancy Asteco showed average sales prices rose some 60 percent in prime residential developments in Dubai last year.

Analysts will be closely following upcoming property transaction data for indications on whether government efforts to moderate the sharp rally are having an impact.

Meanwhile, the UAE's Minister of Economy told a conference earlier this week he expected the country's economic expansion to average 4.5-5 percent this year, a more bullish figure than the 4 percent projection by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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  • Diana Olick serves as CNBC's real estate correspondent as well as the editor of the Realty Check section on CNBC.com.

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