Saudi Arabia suspends privatization of Ras Al Khair desalination, power plant

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Saudi Arabia has suspended the privatization of the Ras Al Khair desalination and power plant, one of a number of state assets that the government aimed to sell to reduce pressure on capital spending and diversify revenues away from oil.

“This decision was made in order to capitalize on knowledge and capacity built in the Kingdom as a result of many years of experience in the areas of water desalination, new technologies, R&D (research and development), and supply chains,” said the Privatization Supervisory Committee for the Environment, Water and Agriculture sectors.

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“A new engagement strategy and plan for the Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) assets such as Ras Al Khair plant will be announced shortly,” it said in a statement on Monday on the website of the Saudi national center for privatizations.

SWCC had hired advisers to help it sell the $7.2 billion Ras Al Khair desalination plant, sources told Reuters previously.

In January, it said that seven companies and consortia had been invited to submit bids for the plant, with the winner expected to own 60 percent of the project company and handle its management, operations, andmaintenance.

Desalination is expensive and energy-intensive but is relied upon in hot, water-scarce climates like Saudi Arabia and neighboring Gulf countries.

The privatization committee said that it will continue to engage investors in future public-private partnerships and privatizations in the water sector.

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