Saudi investment fund PIF ‘has $300bn in assets and counting’

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plan is expected to transform the country’s key wealth fund into one of the world’s largest sovereign investment vehicles. (Shutterstock)
Updated 10 June 2019

Saudi investment fund PIF ‘has $300bn in assets and counting’

  • Boost in Kingdom’s wealth fund ‘will improve country’s international investment position,’ study shows

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s key wealth fund has about $300 billion in assets and its growing size is set to “improve the country’s international investment position,” a new report has found.
Roughly a quarter of the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) holdings are overseas, with investments in companies like electric car maker Tesla and SoftBank’s Vision Fund, according to the Institute of International Finance (IIF) analysis. 
A raft of privatization deals and the planned $69 billion sale of a controlling stake in petrochemicals giant Saudi Basic Industries (SABIC) to Saudi Aramco is set to further boost the fund’s coffers, according to the IIF.
That means it is likely PIF will hit a target of $400 billion in assets by 2020, something the fund’s representatives have previously suggested is on track. 
“The expected further increase in the PIF’s assets abroad will improve the country’s international investment position,” the IIF report said.
“We now estimate PIF’s assets at about $300 billion, of which one-fourth are invested abroad, including in … Blackstone’s infrastructure fund, Egypt’s investment fund, Russia’s investment fund, and Uber. Proceeds from privatization (a target of about
$200 billion) and the eventual 5 percent sale of Aramco (a target of $100 billion) will further boost the PIF’s assets.”
However, the IIF noted that the privatization drive has been delayed due to legal impediments, concerns about implications for the labor market, and — in the case of the planned sale of a 5 percent stake in Saudi Aramco — regulatory procedures that need to be addressed.
The Vision 2030 reform plan envisions the transformation of the PIF into one of the world’s largest sovereign investment vehicles, managing $2 trillion by 2030. 
The Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute estimates PIF’s current assets at $320 billion, higher than the IIF’s assessment, making the Saudi entity the 10th largest fund of its type globally. Representatives of PIF did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 
The IIF report also found that Saudi Arabia’s holdings of US government bonds climbed to a peak of $170 billion in March 2019. The Kingdom has also “repositioned” its assets from euro and UK pounds to US dollars, the institute said.
“The increase in the Saudi appetite for US bonds coincided with relatively higher US yields and unfavorable investment sentiment in (emerging markets) and the euro zone,” the report noted.


OPEC faces a critical moment in its 60-year history

Updated 28 September 2020

OPEC faces a critical moment in its 60-year history

  • Pronouncements of the Vienna-based institution can still spark major price swings

LONDON: OPEC faces a critical moment in its 60-year history with the coronavirus crushing crude demand and prices, discord among its members, and threats from a world seeking cleaner fuels.

Founded on Sept. 14, 1960, OPEC currently comprises 13 members including nations from Africa and Latin America.

The 60th anniversary “comes at a critical moment in its history,” UniCredit analyst Edoardo Campanella said in reference to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

“Its ability to steer the oil market in its favor has never been put in question to the extent it is now,” he noted. The Vienna-based institution convenes for regular meetings to assess the state of supply and demand in the marketplace, and its pronouncements can still spark major price swings.

That ability has dimmed in recent years however, prompting it to join forces with ten non-OPEC producers including Russia to curb their collective output.

OPEC+ essentially wanted to counter surging energy supplies from shale rock in the United States and help clear a stubborn supply glut on world markets.

Today, OPEC pumps about one-third of global oil — but OPEC+ accounts for almost 50 percent, giving it greater clout.

Carlo Alberto de Casa, trader at Activtrades, insisted that the cartel retains a “relevant” function in the market, dismissing talk the organization was a “has-been.”

“They are slightly less influential compared to the past, also due to production of non-OPEC countries and new extraction techniques. But I still see a role for OPEC,” he told AFP.

The price war, in tandem with the worsening Covid-19 pandemic, sent oil prices off a cliff — and even caused New York’s light sweet crude contract to briefly turn negative in April — meaning producers paid buyers to take the oil off their hands.

After the unprecedented market crash, OPEC+ in May slashed up to a fifth of its output — a move that triggered a sharp rebound in crude prices to current levels around $40 per barrel.

Added to the supply backdrop, the United States, now the world’s biggest oil producer, curbed the pace of costly shale extraction.

Rystad Energy analyst Paola Rodriguez-Masiu, while noting that OPEC has lost market share in recent years, said the cartel still has an important role to play because it possesses the largest amount of accessible crude. This meant that extracting its oil resulted in fewer carbon emissions, she said.

“I would argue that OPEC would become more and more important” in the future, she concluded.