Saudi Arabian Asset Buildup inches forward

  • Saudi Arabian Asset Buildup inches forward (c) Anton Balazh/ShutterstockSaudi Arabian Asset Buildup inches forward (c) Anton Balazh/Shutterstock

Saudi Arabia continues to dominate business news from the Middle East, with analysts and other observers speculating on what strategy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will pursue in his plan to diversify the economy, now that a planned flotation of a stake in national oil company Saudi Aramco appears to be on hold.

Saudi Arabia said recently it aims to nearly double the assets of its Public Investment Fund (PIF) by 2020. The fund has appointed long-term Dow Chemical chief executive Andrew Liveris as a special adviser.

To kick-start acquisitions, the British newspaper Financial Times said in late August the PIF had secured credit of $11-12 billion through international banks. The money would patch a small hole in the $100 bn expected to be generated by the stalled flotation.

The government may also need to draw from its reserves at the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, which stand at just over $500 billion, as one report speculated.

Aramco is currently preparing to buy the PIF’s 70% stake in the Kingdom’s flagship petrochemical producer SABIC, a package estimated to be worth about $70 billion. The remaining 30% of the company is in free float. Altogether, SABIC is said to have a market value of just over $100 billion.

The Bloomberg news agency said Citigroup and Goldman Sachs have secured roles in Aramco’s purchase of SABIC, which even if only an in-house transaction would  be Saudi Arabia’s largest-ever M&A deal and the funding among the biggest ever bonds sold by a corporate issuers.

To drive its asset buildup forward, Aramco is seen to be weighing plans for a $1 billion venture-capital fund to invest in international technology firms. The US dollar-denominated investments would be made in technologies complementing the oil giant’s operations.

The oil company is also said to be also considering setting up its own office in California’s Silicon Valley or elsewhere in the US to generate deals.

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