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Dubai transport assets under review for potential sale

Dubai Metro transport assets Reuters
Dubai Metro operates 129 trains serving 53 stations along 89 km of track
  • Transit authority asks banks to assess portfolio
  • Dubai road toll operator raised $1bn in IPO last year
  • Reports suggest RTA may sell stake in taxi business

Dubai’s metro and leading taxi company are among the most sellable assets owned by the emirate’s Roads and Transport Authority, which has asked investment banks to assess its portfolio.

The RTA owns Dubai Metro and Dubai Tram, and operates around 3,850 taxis and 1,520 buses.

The authority also issues driving licences and permits, builds and maintains roads, and runs various waterborne services such as water taxis and ferries.

According to a Reuters report citing unidentified sources, the RTA wants banks to advise it as part of a “strategic review” that will evaluate various options for its assets.

The RTA had owned Dubai road toll operator, Salik, until the emirate’s government took direct control and sold 24.9 percent of the company in an IPO last September.

The IPO raised AED 3.7 billion ($1.01 billion) and attracted orders of more than $50 billion, indicating huge investor appetite for infrastructure-based assets that generate predictable revenues.

RTA-owned Dubai Taxi Corp made a profit of AED 118 million in the first half of 2022, according to a statement on the UAE’s official news agency website.

Much of its taxi fleet is owned by Emiratis, who received AED 14.16 million in fees from the RTA in 2021, the RTA’s most recent annual report says.

The RTA may sell a stake in its taxi business via an IPO, Reuters reported, adding the authority was also “looking at potential options” for its parking lots and public transport ticketing system.

The RTA owned 18,475 kilometres of roads as of December 31, 2021, including 884 vehicle bridges and tunnels, plus 580,000 parking spaces, its annual report states.

Dubai Metro

As of April 2023, Dubai Metro had a fleet of 129 trains serving 53 stations and running along 89.3 kilometres of track. It opened in September 2009. 

In 2022, as social and economic activity normalised following the Covid-19 pandemic, journeys on Dubai Metro rose 49 percent year-on-year to a record 225.1 million – or 616,000 per day.

The construction and operation of Dubai Metro up to the end of 2016 cost AED 41 billion, according to an RTA-commissioned report.

The RTA does not publish Dubai Metro’s financial results.

Its sister network, Dubai Tram, carried 5.34 million passengers in 2021, the most recent data shows.

In March 2021 the RTA awarded a 15-year operation and maintenance contract for Dubai Metro and Dubai Tram to a French-Japanese consortium. The RTA valued the deal at AED 542 million annually.

The consortium operates Dubai’s transport assets such as the railway lines, trains, trams, stations and ticketing systems. Another company, Britain’s Serco, previously ran Dubai Metro.

The RTA’s digital revenue was AED 3.5 billion in 2021, up from AED 2.65 billion a year earlier, a press release states.

Road toll operator Salik made a profit of AED 1.33 billion in 2022, down slightly on 2021 despite revenue rising 11.8 percent to AED 1.89 billion over the same period after it began paying so-called concession fees to the RTA following its separation from its former owner.

Salik currently pays 25 percent of its toll revenue to the RTA.

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