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Saudi Arabia eyes sale of international airports

(From our correspondent) / 21 July 2008

JEDDAH - The government plans to transform international airports in Saudi Arabia into corporations in order to play an important role in economic development, according to Prince Sultan bin Salman, Secretary-General of the General Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (GCTA).

"There are plans to transform civil aviation into different sectors to privatise them and open them for investment,” the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) quoted Prince Sultan as saying on Saturday.

Abdullah Al Ruhaimy, President of the General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) said the transformation of airports into corporations would be carried out gradually.

"We have resorted to the assistance of international companies to manage international airports,” he added.

Airport cities: Prince Sultan, who is also Chairman of the Supervising Committee for the Development of King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh, said GACA was carrying out a number of projects including airport cities, and providing more areas for exhibitions and other services.

"We at GCTA see the need to develop and expand all airports in the kingdom in order to boost domestic tourism,” he added.

He said GACA was currently engaged in developing all of the kingdom’s airports and improving their services for passengers. “The government intends to develop the civil aviation law in a comprehensive manner,” he added.

SPA said that Prince Sultan, accompanied by Al Ruhaimy, and Saad Al Tasan, Director-General of King Khaled Airport, inspected the Riyadh airport building including the international terminal, executive office and the control tower.

In a previous statement, Al Ruhaimy had said that the international airports will be given corporate identity with independent financial status before being transferred to the ownership of companies fully owned by the state.

He said the new plan would improve management of these airports. “This will eventually help the state to take a decision on privatisation of these airports,” he said. "GACA was studying a proposal on setting up business cities within the kingdom’s airports," he added.

He said that there is a plan to establish an exhibition centre and a hotel at King Fahd International Airport in Dammam, and many businessmen in the Eastern Province had expressed their interest in the project.

Southern Terminal progress: Al Ruhaimy further said that 80 per cent of the work on Southern Terminal of the King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah had been completed.

“By the end of this month, the final touches will be put on the new airport’s design,” he said.

The project consists of 24 stages and the work on other stages will begin this year. He added that the new airport would be operational by 2012.

Makkah Governor Prince Khaled Al Faisal recently inspected expansion work being carried out at the airport. He also disclosed plans to build a new airport in the city with more advanced facilities.

Crown Prince Sultan has signed a SR902.91 million contract with Al Mabani Company to develop and upgrade aviation facilities of the Jeddah Airport as part of a massive expansion project to increase its annual capacity to 80 million passengers.

According to a GACA statement, the contract covers expansion of the airport’s tarmac and runways in order to increase its annual capacity to 80 million passengers. The work will also include construction of a new aircraft parking facility west of the Haj Terminal as well as modernisation of ground lights systems and information technology infrastructure. Under the project, a 6.5-square kilometre area will be set aside for commercial projects including hotels and offices of companies.

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