Saudi Civil Aviation Holding Company (SCAHC) has appointed US-based Goldman Sachs for the contract to manage the sale of a stake in King Khaled International airport in Riyadh, according to UK news agency Reuters.

The appointment is one of the first major steps in the kingdom’s efforts to privatise its aviation sector.

It is understood SCAHC, the newly formed owner of civil aviation assets in the kingdom, had earlier invited both local and international banks for the role.

One source told MEED a maximum minority stake of 49 per cent of the airport is planned to be sold to private investors, while another source says they expect the size of the stake to be offered to private investors will be left open.

In early 2016, reports arising from the kingdom indicated the General Authority of Civil Aviation (Gaca), which until this year owned and operated airports in Saudi Arabia, plans to offer at least 75 per cent of some airports to foreign investors.

The kingdom aims to privatise all its airports by 2020.

Bahrain’s GIB Capital was the lead financial adviser to Gaca in the recently concluded airport public-private partnership (PPP) deals and the operation and management (O&M) contract for the Jeddah airport.

The Washington-based International Finance Corporation advised Gaca on the first full-fledged airport PPP in the kingdom. The $1.2bn Medina airport PPP entered full operations in June 2015.

King Khaled International is the kingdom’s second-busiest airport. It handled 23.7 million passengers and 354,335 tonnes of cargo in 2016.

The newest of the airport’s five terminals opened in 2016. Terminal 5, which caters to domestic flights, is being operated by the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA).

The four older terminals are being upgraded and refurbished. A team of Turkey’s IC Ictas and the local Al-Rashid Trading & Contracting won a four-year deal to redevelop the terminals earlier this year.

The renovation works started with Terminal 4, which is unused.

A sixth terminal is to be developed using a PPP model once the redevelopment work on the first four terminals has progressed.

It is understood the airport received bids on 3 July for the second cargo-handling contract at the airport.