Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (Gaca) has extended the prequalification closing date to 3 May for the deal to develop the SR5.6bn ($1.5bn) first phase of Medina airport.

The extension is the second delay to hit the prequalification deadline. The original submission date was 5 April, but this was later delayed to 18 April. It has now been pushed back further to ensure that bidders have enough time to complete their proposals.

“There has been a very strong interest in this project and a lot of companies have taken the prequalification documents to start preparing bids,” says a source close to the project.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the Washington-based World Bank, is acting as transaction adviser on the airport expansion project.

The authority plans to revamp the airport to increase its passenger handling capacity to 14 million people a year from about 3.5 million passengers a year currently. The expansion of Medina airport will be split across two phases and could cost a total of SR9bn to develop,

It will be the first airport project to developed on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis and several banks confirm they are already in talks with potential bidders about providing funding for the scheme. However, there are no details about how much funding each bidder will be required to provide.