The UAE has waived rental and maintenance fees worth millions of dollars for the use of its giant London Excel centre which has been converted into a 4,000-bed emergency hospital amidst the coronavirus outbreak.
As much as $3.68 million a month was initially demanded for the use of the centre owned by Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Co. (adnec). The state-owned company, however, has done a U-turn and is now offering the mass site for free to the NHS.
The rich Gulf state added the London Excel centre to its long list of venues in 2008 for $600 million. Since 2000, ExCeL London, as it's known, is said to have hosted more than 2,000 events, including a controversial arms fair, and received over five million visitors from over 200 countries.
Following the coronavirus outbreak the site has been turned into the NHS Nightingale London a 4,000-bed field hospital, making it one of the world's largest of its kind.
Chief executive of London ExCel, Jeremy Rees, said the deal with the health service had included some contributions to costs, but "we have since decided to cover the fixed costs ourselves".
"The use of ExCeL London for NHS Nightingale London has always been provided to the NHS rent-free. We joined the national effort to combat coronavirus immediately and worked in close partnership with the NHS to ensure this hospital could be up and running in a matter of days," Rees is reported saying in a statement.
"The initial agreement with the NHS included a contribution to some fixed costs. We have since decided to cover the fixed costs ourselves. The ExCeL London facility is fully available to the NHS, and we are here to support all their needs and requirements during this crisis," added Rees.
Humaid Matar Al Dhaheri, CEO of Adnec, said: "Profit has always been the furthest thing from our minds."
"The venue was offered rent-free from the initial conversation with the NHS, and Adnec Group will ensure the ExCeL London partnership comes at no cost to the NHS," Al Dhaheri added.
"It is our firm commitment that we will not charge a penny for the use of our facilities, and we will provide the NHS with the operational and logistical support it needs for NHS Nightingale London."