Developer Emaar, the Economic City awarded the deal that covers all of the city’s power and water utilities. It includes desalination plants, as well as power transmission and distribution networks, a port and an aluminium smelter.

It is expected that the mandate will involve HSBC advising Emaar on the structuring of concessions for the individual projects, and acting as a project adviser when raising the finance needed for each scheme.

Major projects are expected to include a smelter worth $5bn, power facilities worth $3bn, and a $3bn port to be developed by Dubai-based DP World. It could also include at least $2bn worth of other projects.

“[It is] like being mandated on five or six projects at once,” says one Saudi banker.

Now that HSBC has been appointed, development of the city, which is already the most advanced of the kingdom’s six planned economic cities, is expected to accelerate. Financing for the first of the city’s desalination plants could come within the next 12 months, according to one source close to the project.

A similar approach could be used for financing projects at other economic cities, according to the Saudi banker. “KAEC is really acting as the pioneer of the economic cities project,” he says. “The other economic cities could follow a similar model and look to appoint an adviser for all their infrastructure developments.”