French construction giant Vinci has closed a deal to take over the running of two Iranian airports, one in the northeastern city of Mashhad and the other in the tourist centre of Isfahan. The firm will also put in place large-scale expansion plans at the sites.
The main work will take place in Mashhad. Hossein Esfandiari, the deputy head of Iran Airports Company, which manages 54 airports across the country, said: "Vinci has been in talks to build a 43,000 sq m international terminal and a 25,000 sq m domestic terminal in Mashhad International Airport."
Mashhad airport is the second busiest in Iran after Mehrabad in Tehran. The city is a site for religious tourism, and had 25 million domestic and 1.5 million foreign visitors in 2015. The airport dealt with 8.2 million passengers in 2014, an increase of 35% on the previous year.
The value of this contract has been reported in the Iranian press as about $400m.
Vinci will also work with Iranian construction services group Kayson to develop Isfahan International Airport, which has 2.6 million users in 2014. Â
The build, operate, transfer deals have been under discussion since last year, when Vinci submitted preliminary designs for both facilities.
The groundwork for the deal was laid at the end of January 2016, when Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s made a state visit to France, during which a $24bn agreement to lease 118 Airbus passenger jets was also agreed.
Further talks were held when French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault led a trade delegation to Tehran in January this year.
The deal is part of a massive programme of renewal of Iran’s aviation infrastructure. Amir Amini, the deputy minister of roads and urban development, said in February that negotiations were under way to attract investments worth $3bn in airport development.
He added that, besides Mashhad and Isfahan, the ministry was undertaking projects at Mehrabad, Imam Khomeini, Tabriz, Kerman and Shiraz, mainly through foreign investment.
"About $2.4bn worth of memorandums of understanding have also been signed to develop the airports of Mehrabad, Mashhad, Tabriz and Isfahan. We need a further $200 million to build a terminal in Shiraz airport," he said.
Earlier in 2016, Iran signed a memorandum of understanding with Italy’s SocietÃ Esercizi Aeroportuali for the construction of a passenger terminal in Mehrabad International Airport.
Aeroports de Paris and Bouygues are to work on the construction of a new terminal at the Gulf coast city of Imam Khomeini.
Image: Mashhad, a major site for internal tourism (Mohammadreza Farhadi Aref)