Saudi Public Investment Fund looks for more global alliances

1 / 2
Public Investment Fund Managing Director Yasir Al-Rumayyan pictured at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh. (AFP)
2 / 2
Updated 25 October 2017
0

Saudi Public Investment Fund looks for more global alliances

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is looking for further international partnerships as part of its ambitious aim to become the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world.
Yasir Al-Rumayyan, PIF managing director, said that global investment alliances would be a central part of a four-legged strategy.
He was speaking as PIF formally announced a $20 billion alliance with the US investment fund BlackRock to put money into what he called “conventional investment” like infrastructure and large-scale construction projects, and on top of the $45 billion agreed with Japan’s SoftBank.
“We will continue to see partnerships with the rest of the world, and conventional investments will not go away,” he said at the opening session of a major conference hosted by the PIF in Riyadh, the Future Investment Initiative.
He added that PIF is targeting annual returns of between 3 and 9 percent across its portfolios in the long term.
“PIF is a long-term fund. We are looking beyond cyclicality,” he said.
Al-Rumayyan spelled out the rest of the strategy. “We want to grow and diversify revenue across all investments. We want to localize the economy of Saudi Arabia for the future employment of citizens, and we want to expand in new sectors, like waste management, real estate and entertainment.”
Panelists included the CEO of Saudi Aramco, Amin Nasser, BlackRock Chairman Larry Fink, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and Victor Chou, CEO of First Eastern Investment Group.
They were quizzed on their outlook for investment returns as individuals and states worldwide grapple with how to ensure sufficient retirement funds during an extended period of low growth across global economies.
Al-Rumayyan said that some assets could reach annual returns in the low teens.
“We don’t want to be a sitting duck to be shot down by only being in conventional investments. We want to go beyond — that is what Vision 2030 is all about,” he said.
He also revealed that he wants the Future Investment Initiative to become an annual event, which would help the Kingdom prepare for the future.
Questioned on the long-term prospects for the oil economy in the face of the renewable and alternative fuels industry, Nasser said it would take decades for the oil and gas industry to be significantly affected by these changes.
BlackRock’s Fink warned: “Long-term growth rates are decelerating quite rapidly and this is going to  present pension funds with bigger liability issues  —  but this is also one of the reasons we have to address this issue of retirement today with expected returns — whether it’s 4, 6 or 8 (percent).
“It means you have to put money away sooner to get to the expected pool of money you want in retirement.”
Asked about his own forecasts for what was possible and realistic as an investment return, he said: “The BlackRock Investor Institute came out with a 10-year forecast of 4 per cent with a balanced portfolio. I tend to think it will be closer to 6 percent.  We’re in a world of low inflation.”
Hundreds of the biggest names in global business are attending the event in Riyadh, which concludes tomorrow.


At Jordan border, Damascus seeks to revive trade

Updated 21 October 2018
0

At Jordan border, Damascus seeks to revive trade

  • The government of President Bashar Assad took back control of the Nassib border post in July
  • By reopening a key land crossing with Jordan this month, the Syrian regime is inching toward a return to trade with the wider region

BEIRUT: By reopening a key land crossing with Jordan this month, the Syrian regime is inching toward a return to trade with the wider region as it looks to boost its war-ravaged economy.
The government of President Bashar Assad took back control of the Nassib border post in July from rebels as part of a military offensive that reclaimed swathes of the south of the country.
Syria’s international trade has plummeted during the seven-year civil war, and its foreign reserves have been almost depleted.
The reopening of Nassib after a three-year hiatus, on Oct. 15, is a political victory for the Damascus regime, said Sam Heller of the International Crisis Group.
It is “a step toward reintegrating with Syria’s surroundings economically and recapturing the country’s traditional role as a conduit for regional trade,” he said.
The Nassib crossing reopens a direct land route between Syria and Jordan, but also a passage via its southern neighbor to Iraq to the east, and the Gulf to the south.
“For the Syrian government, reopening Nassib is a step toward normalization with Jordan and the broader region, and a blow to US-led attempts to isolate Damascus,” Heller said.
International pressure and numerous rounds of peace talks have failed to stem the fighting in Syria, and seven years in the regime has gained the military upper hand in the conflict.
Assad’s forces now control nearly two-thirds of the country, after a series of Russia-backed offensives against rebels.

 

Syria faces a mammoth task to revive its battered economy.
The country’s exports plummeted by more than 90 percent in the first four years of the conflict alone, from $7.9 billion to $631 million, according to a World Bank report last year.
The Syria Report, an economic weekly, said Nassib’s reopening would reconnect Syria with an “important market” in the Gulf.
But, it warned, “it is unlikely Syrian exports will recover anywhere close to the 2011 levels in the short and medium terms because the country’s production capacity has been largely destroyed.”
For now, at least, Nassib’s reopening is good news for Syrian tradesmen forced into costlier, lengthier maritime shipping since 2015.
Among them, Syrian businessman Farouk Joud was looking forward to being able to finally import goods from Jordan and the UAE via land.
Before 2015, “it would take a maximum of three days for us to receive goods, but via the sea it takes a whole month,” he told AFP.
Importing goods until recently has involved a circuitous maritime route from the Jordanian port of Aqaba via the Suez Canal, and up to a regime-held port in the northwest of the country.
“It costs twice as much as land transport via Nassib,” Joud said.
Syrian parliament member Hadi Sharaf was equally enthusiastic about fresh opportunities for Syrian exports.
“Exporting (fruit and) vegetables will have a positive economic impact, especially for much-demanded citrus fruit to Iraq,” he told AFP.
Before Syria’s war broke out in 2011, neighboring Iraq was the first destination of Syria’s non-oil exports.
The parliamentarian also hoped the revived trade route on Syria’s southern border would swell state coffers with much-needed dollars.
Before the conflict, the Nassib crossing raked in $2 million in customs fees, Sharaf said.
Last month, Syria’s Prime Minister Imad Khamis said fees at Nassib for a four-ton truck had been increased from $10 to $62.
Syria’s foreign reserves have been almost depleted due to the drop in oil exports, loss of tourism revenues and sanctions, the World Bank said.
And the local currency has lost around 90 percent of its value since the start of the war.
Lebanese businessmen are also delighted, as they can now reach other countries in the region by sending lorries through Syria and its southern border crossing.
Lebanon’s farmers “used to export more than 70 percent of their produce to Arab countries via this strategic crossing,” said Bechara Al-Asmar, head of Lebanon’s labor union.
Despite recent victories, Damascus still controls only half of the 19 crossings along Syria’s lengthy borders with Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey.
Damascus and Baghdad have said the Albukamal crossing with Iraq in eastern Syria will open soon, but did not give a specific date.
Beyond trade, there is even hope that the Nassib crossing reopening might bring some tourists back to Syria.
A Jordanian travel agency recently posted on Facebook that it was organizing daily trips to the Syrian capital by “safe and air-conditioned” bus from Monday.
“Who among us doesn’t miss the good old days in Syria?” it said.

FACTOID

BACKGROUND

Syria’s foreign reserves have been almost depleted owing to the drop in oil exports, loss of tourism revenues and sanctions, while the local currency has lost around 90 percent of its value since the start of the war in 2011.