China’s latest Phnom Penh airport deal casts doubt on Vinci’s role in Cambodian aviation

Cambodia Airport Investment has chosen the Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) to design and build the airfield for its $1.5bn international airport in Kandal province to the south of the capital, Phnom Penh.

The $400m deal, MCC’s largest foreign contract this year, will be executed by its Shanghai Baoye Group subsidiary.

The airport will be built in Takhmao town. When complete, it will cover more than 700ha and will have a capacity of 27 million by 2030. The airfield package, which includes a single 4km runway, is due to be completed by the end of 2022, allowing flights to begin the following year.

Chinese investment is also behind another major airport scheme in Cambodia, the controversial $3.8bn Dara Sakor airport and resort (see further reading). 

This influx of Chinese investment into Cambodian aviation prompted the Nikkei Asian Review to wonder over the future of Vinci’s Cambodian Airports, the French-Malaysian joint venture that presently runs the country’s three international air gateways at Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.

This joint venture, which is 70% owned by Vinci, has a contract until 2040. But much of its international business may go to new Chinese competitors at Takhmao and Dara Sakor.

As Nikkei notes, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen told reporters in June that the existing airport in the capital would only handle domestic flights and cargo.

The decision reflects the pressure of Chinese capital flows on Cambodia, the South East Asian country that has been most open to them.

Cambodia Airport Investment is a joint-venture between the Oversea Cambodia Investment Corporation (OCIC), a conglomerate owned by businessman Oknha Pung Kheav and the government’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation.

About $1.1bn of the total cost of the Takhmao airport will come from China Development Bank and $280m from the Oversea Cambodia Investment Corporation.

Other companies involved in the scheme are China State Construction Engineering, which is building the terminal, and Foster + Partners which was chosen in March to produce the design.

Image: The Mekong River at Tan Chau in Kandal province (Peter1170/CC BY 4.0)

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