Turkey to Build World’s Largest Airport in Istanbul

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Turkey plans to build the world’s largest airport in Istanbul as the government seeks to transform the country’s biggest city into an international flight hub, Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim said Wednesday.

The new airport will occupy a 77 million square meter plot along the Black Sea coast of the city’s European side and have a capacity of 150 million passengers annually when completed, Mr. Yildirim said at a press conference in Ankara. He said the tender process will start with ads in national papers on Thursday.

Turkey’s biggest airport, Ataturk, currently handles 45 million passengers annually and Istanbul’s second airport, Sabiha Gokcen on the Asian side, accommodates 15 million passengers, Mr. Yildirim said. London’s Heathrow is the world’s largest airport, transporting about 70 million passengers annually. Dubai, which matches Istanbul’s two existing airports with 60 million annual passenger capacity, is expanding to accommodate 90 million people by 2018.

“There has been a great increase in the number of flights to and passengers in Istanbul in the past 10 years. The number of travelers has surpassed Istanbul’s population by four times. The ability to improve and expand Ataturk airport is severely limited. Therefore, in order to realize Istanbul’s future air-traffic potential and to provide a solution, it is evident that a new airport is needed. This will be the world’s biggest airport,” Mr. Yildirim said.

The government will start accepting bids for the project and hold an auction on May 3, the minister said. The airport will be built in a build-operate-transfer model and the winner will get the rights to run Istanbul’s new terminal for 25 years, Mr. Yildirim said. The minister had previously forecast that the project would cost 10 billion liras ($5.6 billion).

A three-tier process will determine the winning bid, which will have to first meet technical qualifications, then compete on pricing, and finally make an offer for annual rent payments to the General Directorate of State Airports Authority of Turkey that will be paid throughout the operating period, Mr. Yildirim said. The highest rent payer will win, according to the minister.

Meanwhile, Turkey will provide the operator with traffic and passenger guarantees to help the winning bid raise financing, Mr. Yildirim said, without providing details regarding the duration of state support.

Companies that have expressed an interest in the tender include TAV Airports Holding Co. (TAVHL.IS), which sold a 38% stake to France’s Aeroports de Paris (ADP.FR) for $874 million in May; Limak Holding AS, which operates Istanbul’s newer Sabiha Gokcen airport; and Alarko Holding AS (ALARK.IS), among others.

Mr. Yildirim previously said the first phase of the third airport will open in 2016 and accommodate 100 million passengers. He said Wednesday the project will be completed in four stages.


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