ECONOMY

Turkish consortium hopes to win Cairo airport project

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – TAV, a Turkish consortium that builds and operates airports, said yesterday it was hopeful of winning a World Bank tender to expand Cairo airport, despite the Egyptian government’s apparent preference for another bidder. TAV’s Chief Executive Sani Sener said his consortium – which includes an Egyptian firm – had made the lowest bid of $347 million, but said a Lebanese consultant appointed by the Egyptian government supported a rival bid worth $362 million by an Egyptian-French-Belgian consortium. «We have been disappointed by efforts to eliminate us and grant the tender to a company which offered a higher price than us,» Sener told Reuters in an interview. «The ball is now in the court of the World Bank. We expect it to reach a decision within 15 days.» The rival consortium consists of French construction and telecoms group Bouygues, Belgium’s Besix and Egyptian mobile phone operator Orascom. Sener said TAV had good grounds for hope because it was the only bidder with experience of building and operating airports. It had also offered to complete the project in 833 days, less than the 900 days sought by the organizers. Earlier this year, the World Bank approved a $335 million loan to help Egypt double passenger capacity at Cairo and Sharm el-Sheikh international airports and increase foreign currency earnings from tourism. Iran problems Sener put a brave face on TAV’s problems in Tehran, where last year it won an 11-year contract to operate Terminal 1 of the city’s new international airport. The project’s future is unclear now after Iranian hardliners voiced strong opposition to allowing a foreign firm take such a key role. «We believe (the Iranian government and Parliament) will not treat us badly,» he said, adding that if the project were canceled, TAV would expect to recoup its investments, totaling about $15 million, and to receive compensation. TAV was thrown out of the new airport in May on the eve of its first flights. The Iranian armed forces say allowing a foreign company to run the airport endangers national security. On a brighter note, TAV will take part in auctions to build new airport terminals in Morocco and Tunisia later this year. It is also involved in projects in Ukraine and Dubai, as well as in expanding the airports of both Ankara and Istanbul at home.