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WASHINGTON, D.C., June 1 -- The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has approved an investment in Consorcio Aeropuertos Internacionales S.A. (CAI), which will expand and upgrade Laguna del Sauce International Airport in Punta del Este, the most popular tourist attraction in Uruguay and one of South America's major vacation destinations. CAI will carry out the project, which has an estimated total cost of US$31 million, under a 20-year concession from the government of Uruguay following a competitive bidding process. This project is Uruguay's first privatization of a public sector entity. The project will bring a number of improvements that will enhance safety as well as the airport's ability to accommodate growing tourist traffic. The improvements include an expansion of the main terminal; a new, longer runway to accomodate larger aircraft; repaving of the existing runway; a new commercial and general aviation apron; new lighting and navigational equipment; a new control tower; and new ramp equipment. "Th
e airport's present facilities pose an obstacle to the expected continued growth of tourism," noted Mr. Everett J. Santos, Director of IFC's Infrastructure Department. "Since tourism is the largest foreign-exchange-earning industry in Uruguay, a modern tourist infrastructure is crucial to the local economy," he added. IFC will provide two loans totaling up to US$8 million, both for its own account, and will arrange a syndicated loan of up to US$10 million with international commercial banks. IFC will also own 2 percent of CAI's equity. IFC is a member of the World Bank Group and is the leading multilateral source of equity and loan finance for private sector projects in the developing world.
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