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Saudi-Chinese partnership wins $2bn Diriyah deal

China State Construction Engineering, Diriyah Group and El Seif Engineering Contracting sign the contract SPA
China State Construction Engineering, Diriyah Group and El Seif Engineering Contracting sign the contract
  • Project includes opera house
  • ‘Major step’ says Diriyah CEO
  • Local contractor in on deal

Work will begin on a new mixed district at the Saudi giga-project Diriyah in the third quarter of 2024 after a SAR7.8 billion ($2 billion) construction contract, the largest yet, was awarded to a Chinese-Saudi partnership.

Saudi contractor El Seif Engineering and China State Construction Engineering will build the district, which will contain educational institutions, cultural venues, offices and a luxury hotel in the northern part of Diriyah, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

“This represents a major step in our accelerating development strategy and commitment to making Diriyah one of the most important and prominent tourist, humanitarian, and cultural destinations in the world,” Diriyah’s CEO, Jerry Inzerillo, said.

Diriyah, on the northwestern outskirts of Riyadh, is one of the most expensive Saudi giga-projects, valued by the real estate consultancy Knight Frank at $63 billion. It is also one of the most prestigious, encompassing the Al-Turaif Unesco World Heritage Site, where the Al Saud family first established a state in 1727.

The mixed district is expected to include a national museum and an opera house designed by the Norwegian architectural ptactice Snøhetta, which the government hopes will help nurture a new generation interested in arts and culture.

The Public Investment Fund-owned Diriyah district will be one of Riyadh’s main attractions during its hosting of the World Expo in 2030.

In May, Inzerillo said Diriyah’s first hotel is slated to open in November, along with other attractions and sites.

Speaking at a British trade exhibition in Riyadh, Inzerillo said Diriyah has awarded more than 90 British companies contracts worth more than SAR940 million. But Chinese companies have been well-placed to win contracts, as Riyadh develops trade ties with Beijing despite US pressure to reduce links with its rival.

PIF’s giga-projects are central to Saudi Arabia’s ambition of tourism forming 10 percent of GDP by 2030 and creating a non-oil based economy. Some projects have been delayed as lower oil prices have caused funding constraints.

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