DUBAI - Saudi Arabia plans to convert its airport operators into holding companies and transfer them to its powerful sovereign wealth fund with a view to eventual privatisation for some, the head of Saudi Arabia General Authority of Civil Aviation said on Monday.
Abdulaziz al-Duailej told the Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Abha International Airport is being put on "the privatisation path" and is going through final technical and economic studies.
Airports in Taif and Qassim are also proposed for privatisation, he said, adding that requests to invest in the kingdom's aviation sector are being studied.
The kingdom's 22 airports will be set up as airport holding companies, which will oversee construction, operation and management. They will then be transferred to the Public Investment Fund (PIF) to "put on the market at a later time", the newspaper reported.
The PIF is at the centre of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 plans to transform the economy and reduce its dependence on oil.
Investments in the Saudi aviation sector, including in airports, freight, catering, maintenance and ground services, will be offered to local and foreign investors, Duailej told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Saudi Arabia aims to serve 330 million air passengers by 2030, more than triple the 100 million in 2019, he said.
The oil-rich kingdom's aviation strategy includes expansion of existing airports and a focus on two large airports in Riyadh and Jeddah, as well as plans to set up a new national carrier.
(Reporting by Yousef Saba Editing by David Goodman) ((Yousef.Saba@thomsonreuters.com; +971562166204; https://twitter.com/YousefSaba))