Time: September 17, 2018
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has secured its first international loan, boosting the Kingdom’s diversification drive.
The Public Investment Fund said it had obtained an $11 billion (9.4 billion euro) loan as “the first step in its strategic, medium-term debt funding programme”.
“We are pleased to have completed this international syndicated loan”, the fund’s managing director Yasir al-Rumayyan said.
Diversification is a key focus of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 plan, which aims to transform the Saudi economy through a slew of projects from hi-tech start-ups to a new mega city.
The fund said that under the Future Investment Initiative launched in October 2017, it aims to beef up its assets to $400 billion by 2020.
Its current holdings are estimated at $230 billion, mostly in the form of major stakes in companies including SABIC petrochemicals, Saudi Arabia’s largest listed firm.
The PIF is in talks to sell its 70-percent stake in SABIC to Aramco for an estimated $70 billion as another way of raising cash.
The fund is aggressively pushing a host of big-ticket investments — from Uber to the planned $500 billion NEOM mega city on the Red Sea coast.
It has also invested in British tycoon Richard Branson’s space tourism company Virgin Galactic and pledged tens of billions of dollars to funds run by SoftBank and Blackstone.
Since 2016, PIF has committed to investments worth $95 billion including stakes in high-risk tech firms such as electric car company Tesla, according to the International Monetary Fund.
After oil prices crashed in mid-2014, Saudi Arabia accumulated budget deficits of more than $260 billion and borrowed over $100 billion to help finance the shortfall.
But the central bank still has around $500 billion in state reserves, bolstered by a recent partial recovery of oil prices.