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Seven investors bid to start aeronautical and other businesses at MRIA

By: Staff Writer

Colombo (LNW): Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) is to be operated profitably with aeronautical and non-aeronautical business ventures under a public-private partnership, the aviation ministry announced.

Seven expressions of interest (EOIs) have been received to invest in direct and indirect aviation-related business ventures at the Mattala International Airport (MRIA) which will be finalised in two weeks, Minister of Ports, Shipping, and Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva said.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday (29), he said that they had received the seven EOIs from the private sector. These are being evaluated by the Technical Evaluation Committee, which will make a final announcement in two weeks time, he noted.

The focus of calling for EOIs was to utilise the Mattala Airport’s facilities and assets by creating public-private partnership investment opportunities from investors and entrepreneurs engaged in direct and indirect aviation-related enterprises for carrying out aeronautical and non-aeronautical businesses at the airport.

Direct ventures for which EOIs were called include maintenance repair overhaul (MRO), support services, flying schools, fixed based operations (FBO), and long-term aircraft parking, while indirect ventures include the renewable energy industry, resorts/hotels, industrial parks, and logistic services.

Further, the Minister said that from 2017 to 2020, on average, the MRIA had incurred an average loss of Rs. 2 billion annually, which was reduced to Rs. 1.1 billion by 2023 due to more aircraft arriving at the airport and other measures taken.

He said that most Russian tourists arrive at the MRIA at the moment, while it has served as an important alternative airport for aircraft which are turned away from the Katunayake airport due to bad weather conditions, while earlier, the Chennai airport in India served as an alternative to Katunayake.

He said through investment on direct and indirect ventures at the MRIA, it is expected to earn a considerable amount of revenue for the expenses made in 3-4 years time.

The total cost of MRIA construction was US$ 244mn (Rs 81bn at prevailing rates). Of this, US$ 190mn (nearly Rs 70bn) was a loan from the Chinese Exim Bank. Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Pvt Ltd (AASL) has been repaying the loan since 2015. About US$ 102.4mn (Rs 37.4bn) remained to be paid as at August this year.

The Aviation Ministry states that AASL “can neither invest for such business activities nor can they afford to bear huge losses of the scales as aforementioned annually in maintaining MRIA, as the AASL has to invest large sums of money out of its own funds for the development, operation and maintenance of BIA [Bandaranaike International Airport], the main gateway to the country”.

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