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Mon 12 Feb 2007 03:38 PM

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Saudi prepares for airport privatisation

Airports will be given financial independence as a means to improve performance prior to privatisation.

Saudi Arabia is paving the way for privatisation of its international airports.

The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) is working on plans to give all three of the Kingdom's international airports into autonomous, state-owned, companies.

Abdullah Ruhaimy, president of GACA, says that the airports need to be given their own corporate identities and financial independence in order to improve performance.

"This will eventually help the state take a decision on privatisation of these airports," he said in an interview with Al-Majalla, a Saudi Arabian magazine.

He said the authority was studying a proposal on setting up business cities around the Kingdom's airports. "There is a plan to establish an exhibition center and a hotel at King Fahd International Airport in Dammam," he said.

Ruhaimy stressed that no decision has yet been taken on full privatisation of Saudi Arabia's airports, but was keen to discuss the positive impact that the private sector is already having on the country's aviation industry.

GACA has already licensed two private domestic airlines, NAS and Sama, and is working with private companies for the development of the Haj Terminal at King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah.

As well as private investment, GACA plans to invest SR30 billion ($8.2 billion) in expanding airports in Jeddah, Madinah and Tabuk in order to meet a growing number of passengers and the requirements of two new domestic private airlines.

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