KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY: Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Port aims to be one of the world’s largest shipping hubs, with a possible share sale set to spur its expansion, an executive told Arab News.
The port, on the Red Sea coast, is currently the Kingdom’s second largest, with container volumes having grown by more than a third last year.
Ahmed Linjawy, group CEO of Emaar, The Economic City — the Tadawul-listed company that is developing KAEC — said that is just one possible financing option being considered to boost the zone’s wider operations.
“To kickstart some of the future projects, we will need other sources of funding. We’re going more and more into project financing for specific projects — an IPO for the port — and some of our other businesses as well,” Linjawy said.
An initial public offering of King Abdullah Port is likely “within the next five years,” Linjawy added.
"The vision for the port is to be among the largest in the world. We have the funding and the plans to make it the largest in the Middle East for sure, but (to make it among the biggest) in the world we will certainly need a lot more capital,” he said.
“We haven’t started any official talks (for the port IPO), and our talks with the banks right now are … about the project financing of our new developments, such as hotels and some of the utility projects, like our desalination plant.”
KAEC has been in the media spotlight over the last few days, as the first-ever European Tour golf event was held in the zone, along with a musical performance by pop diva Mariah Carey.
Linjawy, who has worked for Emaar, The Economic City since 2006, the year it was listed on the Saudi stock exchange, said that further entertainment events are planned, and that the zone is set to host an international motor-racing event at its track, although not one at Formula 1 level.
KAEC, which is 100 km north of Jeddah, covers an area of 181 square kilometers of land — bigger than the city area of Washington DC — and comprises the King Abdullah Port, coastal residential communities, an industrial zone and the Haramain Railway district.
It currently has about 10,000 full-time residents and pulled in almost 500,000 tourists last year.
Linjawy said KAEC aims to attract 1 million tourists in 2019 through events such as the European Tour golf. A system to make it easier for foreigners to obtain entry visas to visit KAEC will be introduced this year, he said.
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