DUBAI - Middle East shopping mall developer Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) has decided to put on hold plans to divest its district cooling assets, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Dubai's MAF, which did not respond to a request for comment, hired HSBC in 2020 to advise it on the potential sale of chiller plants linked to its hotels and shopping centres, which sources said could fetch around 500 million dirhams ($136 million).

It was not immediately clear why MAF had decided to put its plans on hold.

MAF was founded by Emirati businessman Majid Al Futtaim, whose death at the end of last year was announced by Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum who paid tribute to him as one of the emirate's pioneers.

Al Futtaim was ranked as the third-richest Arab businessman by Forbes Magazine in 2021 with a family fortune of $3.6 billion. Since his death, MAF has transitioned through the inheritance process to his heirs and now has nine shareholders, group chief executive Alain Bejjani told Reuters in August.

District cooling plants, which deliver chilled water via insulated pipes to cool offices, industrial and residential buildings, has been developed as a more economical and environmentally friendly alternative to air conditioning.

Selling the business was part of a business strategy by MAF to divest what it considered a non-core asset and shore up liquidity after the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns and restrictions in the United Arab Emirates and other countries it operates in.

($1 = 3.6726 UAE dirham)

(Reporting by Hadeel Al Sayegh; Editing by Alexander Smith)