Bombardier eyes US$5.5-billion in Gulf rail contracts

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By Dania Saadi, ReutersMay 11, 2009,  www.vancouversun.com

DUBAI — Bombardier Inc. is eyeing 4-billion euros (US$5.44-billion) worth of rail contracts over the next five years in the Gulf Arab region, where public spending is rising to lift shrinking economies, a company executive said.

Bombardier, the world’s No. 1 passenger train maker, is keen to take part in about 1-billion euros worth of contracts in Qatar alone for light rail projects in Doha, which could be opened for bidding this year.

“We are looking at upcoming opportunities for light rail projects in Abu Dhabi and Doha,” Peter Albexon, Vice President Sales and Business Development at Bombardier Transportation said on the sidelines of a railways conference in Dubai.

“We think a couple of them will mature this year.”

Gulf Arab governments are boosting their public spending on infrastructure projects such as roads and railways to extricate their economies from contraction.

The economies of Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are expected to shrink this year as a six-year oil rally that pushed oil prices to a record-high last year ends, the International Monetary Fund said on Sunday.

Oil prices, which peaked at US$147 a barrel in July, have dropped as low as the mid-US$30 range this year as a global economic slowdown hit demand.

Faced with a growing young population, a flood of expatriate workers and poor public transport, Gulf Arab states are earmarking billions of dollars on transport projects such as railways, which could eventually be linked together.

Qatar, the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, is spending billions of dollars on infrastructure projects as it seeks to diversify its economy away from oil and gas and attract investors.

The Canadian transport giant is interested in bidding for the electro-mechanical part, that include trains, signals and power transmission, for two light rail projects and a people-mover project in Doha, Albexon said.

The Montreal-based company is also keen to bid next year for the Riyadh and Jeddah light rail projects in Saudi Arabia and the Abu Dhabi rail projects.

“Currently the financial situation has slowed down projects in general,” said Albexon.

“But, many governments now see the need to help the economy by moving infrastructure projects.”

German railway operator Deutsche Bahn DBN.UL won a deal last year to help design a multi-billion rail network in Qatar.

Qatar is also planning a high-speed rail link between the capital Doha and neighboring Bahrain via one of the world’s longest bridges, nationwide freight and passenger services as part of a wider Gulf Arab rail network, and a metro in the capital city.

© Thomson Reuters 2009

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