More economic cities unveiled

30 June 2006

Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) unveiled on 20 June plans to build a new city at a greenfield site on the outskirts of Medina. Known as Knowledge Economic City (KEC), the project will be implemented by a consortium of local investors. The project is the third of six special economic zones (SEZs) planned by the government (MEED 16:6:06).

The developer consortium behind KEC is made up of Savola Group, PMDC, Taibah Investment & Real Estate Development Company, Quad International Real Estate Development Company and the King Abdullah Foundation.

To be developed on a 4.8 million square-metre site, KEC will have a built-up area of about 9 million square metres with total project costs estimated at SR 25,000 million ($6,700 million). The city will house about 200,000 residents and include 30,000 residential units. KEC will target investment in knowledge-based industries including information technology and life sciences. It will also comprise a museum on the life of the Prophet Mohammed, a centre for Islamic civilisation studies and a mosque for 10,000 worshippers. The city will be linked by monorail to Medina's Grand Mosque. The project follows the recent announcement of the Prince Abdulaziz bin Mosaed Economic City (PABMEC) in Hail. Speaking on the sidelines of MEED's Invest: Saudi Arabia conference held in London on 20 June, the chairman of the local Rakisah Holding Company, which is the lead developer on the project, said that a new company called Rakisah Economic City would be created by October. 'It will have a paid-up capital of SR 5,000 million ($1,330 million), of which 70 per cent will come from the consortium members and the remainder from an initial public offering (IPO) in October,' said Abdullah al-Rakhis.

Rakisah, KEC and the King Abdullah Economic City, near Rabigh, are the first of six SEZs to be announced by the government. Investors in the zones will be offered tax breaks, relief from Saudisation policies and subsidised energy. 'We have decided to leverage economic zones,' said SAGIA governor Amr Abdullah al-Dabbagh, at the MEED conference. 'By the end of 2006, we will have six economic zones. We have announced three so far and there will be three more by the end of the year. Each one will focus on different industries and sectors.'

Exact details of the three remaining zones have still to emerge. Sources at SAGIA confirmed that possible locations include Jizan, to cater to the fishing and agricultural sector; Tabuk, to target tourism; and possibly Ras al-Zour to focus on the energy, minerals and aluminium sectors.

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