Reichmann in bid to buy back Canary Wharf

Paul Reichmann confirmed last night that he was leading a bid to buy back Canary Wharf, the flagship office development of the London docklands urban regeneration scheme he masterminded in the Eighties but saw go into receivership three years ago.

The Toronto-based entrepreneur, whose global property empire Olympia & York collapsed at the same time, is joining forces with a rival Canary Wharf bidder, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the 38- year-old nephew of the King of Saudi Arabia, to buy back the complex.

Last month, Mr Reichmann put in an offer on his own account to the consortium of 11 banks that rescued Canary Wharf and own it. The price was rumoured to be pounds 800m but he refused to confirm this.

Mr Reichmann, who developed projects such as the World Financial Centre in New York and First Canadian Place in Toronto, said: "Canary Wharf is a world-class project with a bright future."

"If we acquire Canary Wharf, joining forces with an investor of the calibre and resources of Prince Alwaleed will significantly increase the prospects for realising its full development potential."

Mr Reichmann is making his approach as Canary Wharf shakes off its white- elephant image. Now more than three-quarters let, the development, which includes Europe's tallest tower, is fast gaining critical mass.

BZW, the investment bank, recently announced it would be moving half its operation out of cramped accommodation in the City of London to the development. The deal was widely seen as a watershed letting for Canary Wharf, which has battled, sometimes acrimoniously, with the Corporation of London for blue-chip tenants.

Property professionals now talk seriously about building the two-thirds of the development for which planning consent was given, but which, because of the recession, was never built.

Development of the Jubilee Line extension, due to finish in 1998, is seen as the key to the future success of Canary Wharf, held back in its early days by poor communications. The Limehouse Link, Britain's most expensive stretch of road, has made the area more accessible.

Banks had to refinance Canary Wharf by pounds 1.1bn in September 1993, when they were owed a total of pounds 568m.

Prince Alwaleed, who has extensive world-wide investments, including stakes in EuroDisney and Citicorp, emerged as a rival bidder last month. Analysts yesterday said that his decision to combine with Mr Reichmann, whose investors' group already includes American TV mogul Larry Tisch, may prove a powerful combination.

Prince Alwaleed said: "Mr Reichmann and his team have a sound approach towards the project and we are delighted to be joining forces with them."

A spokesman for Lloyds Bank, which leads the 11-strong consortium, said: "We've received a number of unsolicited bids, but we are not prepared to reveal from whom. We cannot confirm we have received a bid from the new group (Mr Reichmann and Prince Alwaleed). We have no further comment."

Hong Kong's Hwang brothers are understood to be rival bidders.