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Jordan 2019 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

Through its dogged dedication, AIG's push to get every stakeholder pursuing a common goal did much to help Queen Alia International cross the crucial 8 million-passenger mark in 2018.

Kjeld Binger
BIOGRAPHY
Kjeld Binger has been responsible for the operational management and delivery of the new terminal of the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman since 2011. He has more than 24 years’ experience in the airport sector. In his capacity as Executive Vice President of Copenhagen Airports (CPH) he oversaw the transformation of CPH to a major regional hub, and as CEO of Copenhagen Airports International, he acquired and operated a successful portfolio of 11 airports globally. He was also chairman and CEO of ASUR Mexico, CEO of DAE Airports, and a board member of various airport companies. He holds a BS in civil and structural engineering from the Technical University of Odense, Denmark.

How would you sum up the major milestones over the past year for AIG?

The company was founded in 2007 with the sole purpose of bidding for the Queen Alia International Airport (QAIA) concession. This consortium, consisting of six diverse shareholders, won the bid by a margin of less than 1%, so it was an extremely tight competition. The company undertook the construction of a new terminal at QAIA, and the first phase of the construction was inaugurated in March 2013 and the second in September 2016. Between 2007 and mid-2016, the company invested around USD1 billion in a new terminal structure. The consortium evolved over time, and in 2017 shareholders started thinking about consolidating. Some wanted out, and others wanted to increase their holding. Within the last year, Aeroports de Paris (ADP) acquired 51% in AIG; Meridiam, also from France, acquired 33%; ASMA Capital from Bahrain acquired 12.25%; and local investor Edgo Investment Holdings disposed of half of its shareholding down to 4.75%. This has been the most important milestone because this consolidation means that there is a strong shareholder focus on operations rather than financial engineering and investments. ADP is among the biggest airport operators in the world, and it handles more than 250 million passengers per year globally. Now AIG is a subsidiary of ADP, which marks a new era for the organization. Not only is this a huge milestone for AIG, but also for Jordan. We have both outgoing and incoming investors walking out with smiles on their faces because they feel they have made a great deal. This deal is a major milestone in FDI in Jordan, because when private money comes into the country, it has a different weight. Another achievement is crossing the 8-million passenger mark, which is the result of approximately 7% average annual growth in traffic since the inception of the concession in early 2008. In August 2018 alone, we handled more than 1 million passengers. This is remarkable growth for a country like Jordan, especially when we look at the competitive landscape, which includes Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, and Istanbul. We are surrounded by extremely large players, and yet our growth has not slowed down in our 10 years in the country.

How did AIG achieve such major milestones?

AIG brings the money, constructs the infrastructure, maintains it, and rents it to users, which includes all the stakeholders. We make sure all the stakeholders are aligned and have common goals. These common goals are hammered in granite into our vision: to always be among the 20-best airports in the world in our peer class, which includes airports that handle between 5 and 15 million passengers. We are working extremely hard to align everyone in this direction so we can maintain our position. In 2016, we were number three in the world, and in 2017, we were second best in the region. We stand a great chance of being the best in the region this year. We are also focused on developing our market and welcome the initiatives from the government with RyanAir. I have always been a strong opponent of high taxes on travel, airlines, and passengers, because they are detrimental to the development of countries. In Jordan, this is a big hurdle. With RyanAir, the government is testing the waters for the model of waiving the JOD20 special tax on each passenger to determine how this could translate into higher GDP and more jobs. The equation could work and needs to be evaluated for the long term.