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LONDON-Multiplex has warned of further delays to the euro 1.1-billion ($1.4-billion) Wembley stadium project, a development that has already cost the euro 293 million ($375 million) because of delays. The Australian developer blamed the stadium owners, Wembley National Stadium Ltd., for the delays and added in its statement that it would be seeking legal redress. WNSL responded by accusing Multiplex of missing deadlines and making “deliberately confusing” statements. The Football Association said it was confident the euro 1.1-billion ($1.4-billion) stadium would be ready for next year’s Cup final.

Multiplex agreed to build Wembley on a fixed-price contract of euro 659 million ($843.8 million) and has faced penalty charges of euro 175,825 ($225,000 ) per day since January of this year. It is understood the penalties will be capped at euro 55.7 million ($71.3 million), although the final sum is likely to be determined in court. Multiplex is understood to be seeking compensation of up to euro 219.8 million ($281 million), arguing that delays were caused by design changes instigated by WNSL.

The company has already had to sell many of its prime development projects in the UK to cover the cost of the delays. Construction work was continuing at the stadium, where the turf has been laid and goalposts installed, but disputes remain over who is responsible for carrying out remaining work and the timescale. In a statement issued to the Australian stock exchange, Multiplex officials say that, “The stadium work is now substantially complete with the exception of the installation of the last remaining seats.”

But they added that WNSL had not finished such work as the installation of CCTV cameras, cabling for communications and mobile cash tills, which would delay Multiplex from closing its contractual obligations. Multiplex said it had hired a consultant to assess the state of WNSL’s preparedness. “The analysis has been reviewed with an expert in the operation of major stadia and indicates that it is unlikely that the stadium will be able to hold a test event for 90,000 spectators before June 2007.”

The statement added: “Multiplex has advised WNSL of its entitlement to extensions of time to October 2007 and of its intention to pursue legal proceedings in that and other respects, including WNSL’s acts and omissions, which are preventing Multiplex’s ability to achieve practical completion.”

But Michael Cunnah, WNSL’s chief executive, counters those claims and tells GlobeSt.com that his firm always tried to give a realistic appraisal of progress on site. “The contract with Multiplex has two critical future milestones that Multiplex has deliberately confused,” he says. “Multiplex is required to hand WNSL a completed stadium, which is defined in the contract as ‘practical completion.’ WNSL then has to work with Multiplex to finish certain works and to hold the various test events that will enable the safety certificate to be obtained and achieve ‘operational completion,’ the point at which a fully functioning stadium is delivered, capable of holding full-capacity events for 90,000 people.”

“The bottom line for us is that we will be ready two to three months after they give us a finished stadium,” he continues. “If they can achieve that this year then we will be able to open the stadium in early 2007. We hope that Multiplex will devote all their energies to completing the stadium at the earliest opportunity as is their responsibility.”

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