ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast will reassign the concession to build and operate a 3,700-hectare commercial district adjacent to the country's main airport, the government said on Wednesday, after cancelling an agreement with Aeria, the airport's operator.
Aeria has operated Félix Houphouet-Boigny International Airport in the commercial capital of Abidjan since 1996 and will continue to do so. But it has missed a deadline to build Aerocite, a multi-business complex around the airport, government spokesman Bruno Kone said.
"Aeria did not meet its engagements. So the state has withdrawn the concession and will reattribute it in competition open to other candidates," he told reporters following a cabinet meeting.
Aeria had been partnered with French engineering group Egis on Aerocite, with the concession due to run until 2029. Aeria's board chairman, Abdoulaye Coulibaly, declined to comment on why the company had failed to deliver the project.
Ivory Coast, French-speaking West Africa's largest economy, is in the midst of a revival following a decade-long political crisis that ended in a brief 2011 civil war.
With economic growth averaging around 9 percent, investor interest is growing, and Abidjan's international airport is expecting to welcome 1.5 million passengers this year.
Bruno said the development of Aerocite was a priority and the government would move quickly to open bidding for the concession.
"It's more a question of days or weeks than months, because the Ivorian government would like to see the start of this project this year," he said.
Billed as an "airport city", plans for the Aerocite project include economic, logistical and commercial spaces as well as two hotels, residential housing and an exposition centre.
(Reporting by Joe Bavier; Editing by Larry King)