Dublin: Ireland’s Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) is “actively looking” at opportunities in Iran, chief executive Kevin Toland said on Wednesday in what is the latest sign of a closer commercial relationship between the Islamic republic and Europe.
Iran has moved to strengthen its economic ties with Europe since the lifting of nuclear sanctions in January.
The country has signed billions of dollars of contracts with European firms including a deal with France’s Aéroports de Paris to build a new terminal at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini international airport.
“Iran is a tremendously exciting opportunity,” Toland said at a media briefing in Dublin ahead of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual meet this week.
DAA’s international subsidiary last year won a contract to manage the new Terminal 5 at Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport. An affiliate company has also won the retail contracts for Abu Dhabi’s Midfield Terminal Building (MTB) and Muscat International’s new terminal. It has similar contracts at the two airport’s existing terminals and in Bahrain and in Lebanon.
Toland said DAA is “hoping to be part” of the opportunities in Iran who are reconnecting with the global market after decades of isolation.
“At this stage we are assessing what the opportunities are likely to be,” he said, later telling Gulf News DAA would consider terminal management and retail contracts.
But Toland did express some reservations and said that any entrance into Iran is likely to be “over the medium term.”
Whilst major companies like European plane maker Airbus moved quickly in signing a $25 billion (Dh91.82 billion) deal to sell Iran 118 planes after sanctions lifted others have been more cautious. Sanctions related to the sponsoring of terrorism and Iran’s missile test programme still remain and the United States continues to ban most of its citizens from doing business with the country. It also has so far continued in blocking Iran from having access to the dollar and the US financial system, forcing many to tread cautiously.
The block on the dollar is unlikely to affect DAA, who are owned by the Irish government, and Toland did not explicitly say what his reservations were other than it will take time for the country to open up.
“I think what’s going to happen over the next number of years is it’s [Iran] going to resume that far more active presence in the travel industry,” he said.
Over the near-term, Toland said DAA is bullish on the Saudi Arabian market where the government is slowly moving to privatise parts of its aviation sector including its airports and in Bahrain where there is plans for a new airport.
“It’s a long term business. Our focus in the first term instance is do a really good job with our partners in Riyadh and then there is actually a wonderful opportunity in Saudi,” he said.