According to one senior executive working on the project, the broad concept masterplan is due to be completed by Singapore-based Jurong International in July and the project is expected to be officially launched soon after.

Jurong is also in discussions with the developer, the Saudi Industrial Property Authority (Sipa), to work on the concept infrastructure for the project. According to Kenneth Lim, business development director at Jurong, developers from Turkey, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and South Korea have expressed interest in investing in the site.

He says one company has requested to develop the entire site, but this is unlikely to happen because of the size of the project. “It would be very difficult for one company to carry it out,” he says.

Infrastructure costs alone are expected to be $14bn.

Sudair is also now expected to get its own airport to ensure it has suitable links to attract businesses. “The chances are 90 per cent that it will get its own airport,” says Lim.

Once completed, Sudair is expected to accommodate a population of 1 million people within a site of 257 square kilometres, making it 70 per cent larger than King Abdullah Economic City, the largest of the six economic cities being developed in the kingdom.

To ensure the success of the project, Sipa has agreed on a financial package with the Saudi Industrial Development Fund to offer low-interest loans to potential developers (MEED 2:5:08).