Company News

Saudi Arabia metro key part of French RATP's foreign growth drive

* French-state-owned RATP targets fast expansion abroad

* Riyadh bus, metro contract worth 3.7 bln over 12 years

* Strong international competition in Buenos Aires tender

PARIS, Oct 19 (Reuters) - French state-owned public transport firm RATP aims to more than double its foreign revenue by 2025 through public transport contracts in the Middle East, Asia and the Americas.

Over the past decade, RATP has become one of the world’s top public transport operators, running bus, tram and metro systems.

In a presentation of RATP Group’s strategy on Friday, CEO Catherine Guillouard said RATP aims to boost its revenue from 5.5 billion euros ($6.3 billion) in 2017 to seven billion by 2025, of which a third would come from outside its base in the Ile de France region around Paris.

“We are in an unprecedented expansion phase,” she said.

RATP, which operates in 14 countries, has seen its foreign revenue grow from 110 million euros in 2007 to an expected 800 million in 2018.

The group earns revenue of 300 million euros per year in its main foreign market Britain, where it operates 1,000 red buses in London. It also operates bus, tram and metro systems in Italy, Algeria, Morocco, South Africa, the Middle East, the United States, Bombay, Hong Kong and Seoul.

Traditionally strong in buses, RATP is increasingly focusing on heavy transport such as trams and rail and competes with two other state-owned French public transport firms: railway operator SNCF-owned Keolis and bus operator Transdev. It has several joint ventures abroad with both.

RATP’s biggest foreign projects include Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh, a city of six million people with virtually no public transport. It won a 12-year, 1.7 billion euro contract to start up a bus network and a 12-year, two billion euro contract to operate two of six planned metro lines.

“Our first buses in Riyadh will ride in 2019,” said Laurence Batlle, who heads the RATP Dev unit which spearheads RATP’s expansion abroad and in France outside Paris.

RATP Dev will hire about 3,500 people in Saudi Arabia in coming months, of which 2,500 for the bus network, including 100 female drivers in a country where women were not allowed to drive until earlier this year.

Last year, RATP and Keolis won a 20-year, three billion euro contract to operate metro and rail networks in Doha, Qatar.

Asked about the impact of the international indignation about the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Guillouard declined comment.

A year ago, RATP also signed a contract to operate Cairo’s number 3 metro line and it is taking part in a tender for a concession to operate the Buenos Aires metro.

Other bidders include Transport for London, Keolis, French Alstom, Germany’s Deutsche Bahn, Siemens and Canada’s Bombardier, according to International Railway Journal.

RATP’s other major competitors in international public transport tenders include Hong Kong’s MTR and Singapore’s SMRT.

RATP will also bid for the renewal of the Mumbai metro contract, which it operates with Transdev, with which it also operates Hong Kong’s double-decker trams. ($1 = 0.8685 euros) (Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Susan Fenton)