Group founder and owner Andrew Sasson says the deal kicks off anew chapter of expansion for the company. "More and more thedevelopments and growth found in the UAE and the wider region areleading the way internationally in terms of scope and ambition," hesays. "[The partnership] will see us escalating our portfoliothroughout the US and further afield … we intend to embark on anumber of pioneering projects."

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Light Group, which operates a number of nightclubs within MGMMirage properties, is new to the hotel business. Its first gig isthe operation of Harmon Hotel & Residences, a luxury propertywhich is under construction on the Las Vegas Strip as part ofCityCenter, a massive development being developed by MGM Mirage andDubai World, another Dubai government conglomerate whose companiesinclude Nakheel, developer of the Palm and World man-made islandsoff the coast of Dubai. Among other things, Zabeel is currentlydeveloping the Tiara Residence on Nakheel's Palm Jumeirahisland.

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Zabeel Investments' executive chairman, HE Mohammed Ali AlHashimi says his company's goal is to further develop the resortindustry in the UAE and across the region, an effort that willbenefit from Light Group's experience restaurants, entertainmentvenues, and now hotels. "In turn, we intend to support the LightGroup as it continues to expand its hotel management, food andbeverage, and entertainment portfolio further into key UScities."

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In explaining the companies' interest in expanding in the MiddleEast, Zabeel and Light Group cite a report published by GlobalFutures and Foresight in May 2007. The report estimates that overthe course of the next 20 years more than $3 trillion will beinvested in the leisure and tourism industry in the Arab world. Iftrue, it would warrant at least 200 new hotels, according to thereport.

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