Pakistan kicks off outsourcing operations, assets at three airports

By Asif Shahzad

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan on Thursday kicked off outsourcing of operations and land assets at three major airports to be run through a public private partnership, a finance ministry statement said, a move to generate foreign exchange reserves for its ailing economy.

Islamabad has engaged the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation as an advisor for the outsourcing process, the ministry said in the statement.

“The outsourcing of three airports has been initiated within the scope of public-private partnership .. to engage private investor/airport operator through a competitive and transparent process to run the airports, develop appertaining land assets and enhance avenues for commercial activities and to garner full revenue potential,” the ministry said.

No details of the partnership, or any agreement have been made official.

Pakistan, however, has been in talks with Qatar to jointly run terminals at Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore airports, officials say.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif visited Doha late last year to garner Qatari investment in the country’s energy and aviation sectors, which was followed by a pledge by the Qatar Investment Authority to invest $3 billion in Pakistan.

Islamabad has been negotiating the deal with Doha for several months as part of an effort to find foreign investment for the cash-strapped nation of 220 million people.

Pakistan’s aviation sector is struggling with the country’s national flag carrier running accumulated losses of nearly 400 billion Pakistani rupees ($1.41 billion).

Pakistan is facing an acute balance of payment crisis with its central bank reserves dipping so low as to hardly cover four weeks of imports.

Islamabad remains locked in so far unsuccessful talks with the IMF to secure critical funding.

($1 = 283.1000 Pakistani rupees)

(Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel, Sharon Singleton and Christina Fincher)