Regional

Saudi wealth fund to weigh bank loans for investments

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which aims to become a $2 trillion investment giant, is considering borrowing from banks for the first time as it seeks investments in the kingdom and abroad, according to people familiar with the matter. The Public Investment Fund, or PIF, has held talks with local and international banks and could raise about $5 billion this year, some of the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. No final decisions on timing or size have been made and the PIF may instead turn to government financing, the people said. A spokesman for the PIF declined to comment.

The fund is willing to borrow as it seeks to diversify the kingdom’s oil-dependent economy and boost returns from investments, Managing Director Yasir al-Rumayyan said in a Bloomberg Television interview in October. Saudi Arabia is stepping up efforts to turn the PIF into a global giant by giving it ownership of state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco, which is preparing for what could be the world’s biggest initial public offering.

The fund has announced some large international deals, including a commitment to put $20 billion into a U.S. infrastructure fund managed by Blackstone Group LP, and as much as $45 billion in a technology investment fund managed by SoftBank Group Corp., as well as a $3.5 billion stake in Uber Technologies Inc.

The PIF is also behind several large real estate developments in Saudi Arabia, including a new city called NEOM that will be built on the Red Sea Coast, an entertainment city on the edge of Riyadh and another tourism project on the Red Sea. It has also finalized an accord to take over the management of Riyadh’s $10 billion unfinished financial hub as the government attempts to revive the project, people familiar with the matter said last year.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 15, 2018, on page 15.

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