Aviation support firm Alpha Airports - which has an operation at Birmingham International Airport - yesterday clinched a ten-year contract with United Arab Emirate's Sharjah International Airport.

The deal covers flight catering and ancillary services to all airlines operating out of this rapidly expanding airport, which is strategically located in the Arabian Gulf.

In addition to a comprehensive range of flight catering services Alpha will also take responsibility for the business and first class airline lounges and will be introducing its innovative World News Cafe brand to the newly developed and much expanded airport terminal.

The company said that sales from comparable concession activities in 2005 were in the region of £5 million.

Alpha plans to underpin this extension of its Middle East operations through a partnership with Air Arabia, a regional low cost airline based at Sharjah International Airport, in order to explore mutually beneficial development opportunities.

Alpha's investment in this venture is expected to be in the region of £500,000.

Peter Williams, chief executive of Alpha Airports, said: "This extension to our business in the Middle East allows Alpha to exploit the expertise it has developed in Jordan over the last five years.

"We are very pleased to be the lead airline caterer to have won the contract for this emerging airport."

Lionel Wilton, managing director of Alpha's Middle East operations, said: "We are delighted with the successful outcome of this international tender and to be working with Sharjah International Airport's team.

"Their vision and innovative approach is manifest in the level and style of investment they are making in every aspect of the airport infrastructure."

Sheikh Abdulla Bin Mohammad Al Thani, chairman of the Department of Civil Aviation, Emirate of Sharjah International Airport, added: "This is a significant agreement for Sharjah International Airport as we seek to increase our market share and to be able to offer the highest standards of service is imperative.

"We are confident that the combination of Alpha's international experience and innovative solutions as a specialist support service provider will enhance our total service offering."