In Brief

Saudi sovereign wealth fund goes global

PIF chaired by crown price key part of drive to diversify economy and boost foreign investments

Saudi Arabia’s massive sovereign wealth fund is to set up offices in London, San Francisco and New York as it aims to pour billions of dollars into foreign investments.

The Public Investment Fund’s (PIF) already owns sizeable stakes in the likes of Uber and Tesla, but now plans to increase its assets from $224bn to $400bn by 2020, and raise the share of foreign investments in its portfolio from 10% to 50% by 2030. It also expects to boost the number of people it employs from 450 to 2,000 by 2025.

“The fund is central to Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, a plan spearheaded by [Crown Prince Mohammed] bin Salman to diversify the economy away from oil,” says CNN.

Bin Salman, who also chairs the PIF, “is the driving force behind the country's ambitions to develop new tourist and entertainment industries in a bid to encourage Saudis to spend more of their money at home”, says the news network.

Yet he is also facing intense scrutiny over his alleged involvement in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last October.

Bloomberg's Matthew Martin says Saudi Arabia’s US plans come “as the world’s biggest oil exporter tries to win back investor confidence” following the uproar that prompted several top executives and finance ministers pull out of an economic conference in October.

“It’s also seeking to move on from an alleged crackdown on corruption that rattled the kingdom’s business elite and weighed on economic growth,” says Martin.

Reuters reports “the fund has made substantial commitments to green projects, including renewables and recycling, and to technology companies, and is also backing the country’s plans to diversify into solar power as well as waste management, infrastructure and entertainment”.

So, while it fits very much within Salman’s economic diversification programme, the expansion of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund could also be seen as an attempt to buy some international goodwill at a time when the global economy is showing signs of slowing.

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