Abu Dhabi’s Department of Transport has appointed the US’ Citigroup as liquidity adviser for the development of the Mafraq-Ghweifat highway project.

The US bank will work alongside accountancy firm Ernst & Young (E&Y), which has already been appointed financial adviser on the scheme. The $2.7bn project will be developed on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis, one of the first of its kind in the region.

Citigroup has been in talks with the Department of Transport since late March (MEED 26:3:10).

The appointment was made to help ensure that the project was structured in a way that is attractive to banks. A request for proposals for the new adviser was issued to banks in late November, describing the role as a ‘liquidity adviser’ to the Department of Transport.

A source close to the Department of Transport confirms that all three bids for the project are still being evaluated. The three bidders are a consortium led by Australia’s Macquarie; the Mafraq Motorway Group, led by Austria’s Strabag; and a Chinese joint venture of China Communications Construction Company and MTD Capital.

Technical evaluation of the bids is expected to be completed in April, with financial bids opened afterwards, and an award is due before the end of the second quarter.

Citigroup has several mandates in the emirate, including for the New York University project being developed by state-owned Mubadala Development Company. Mubadala will also be among several Abu Dhabi government-owned investors that will take an equity stake in the Mafraq-Ghweifat highway project.