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.


STC postpones its acquisition of Vodafone Egypt for second time

Updated 13 July 2020

STC postpones its acquisition of Vodafone Egypt for second time

  • Kingdom’s largest telecom company says it will need an additional two months to complete the deal

CAIRO: The Saudi Telecom Company (STC), the Kingdom’s largest telecom company, said that it will need an additional two months to complete a deal to purchase a 55 percent stake in Vodafone Egypt.

In January, STC was in agreement to buy the stake for $2.4 billion. In April, it extended the process for 90 days due to logistical challenges stemming from the spread of COVD-19. The company said in a statement that it would extend the period again to September for the same reason.

The Public Investment Fund, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, owns a majority stake in STC. The ownership of Vodafone Egypt is divided between 55 percent for Vodafone International, which is the target percentage of the Saudi purchase offer, 44.8 percent for Telecom Egypt, and the remaining 0.2 percent for small shareholders.

Telecom Egypt is awaiting the results of Vodafone’s evaluation of the final share price to announce its position on the deal. A Telecom Egypt official stated that the company is still awaiting STC’s position regarding the purchase of the share. If the deal is not completed, it may be presented with its rights to acquire Vodafone’s share, which would allow it to take over 99.8 percent of the company’s shares, leaving 0.2 percent for small investors.

Ashraf El-Wardany, an Egyptian communications expert, pointed out the importance of waiting until the procedures between STC and the Vodafone Group are complete. The results will determine the next steps by Telecom Egypt.

El-Wardany said that the Saudi operator must, after completing the relevant studies, submit a final binding offer at the share price and any conditions for purchase. If approved by Vodafone, it must submit the offer with the same conditions and price to Telecom Egypt, provided that the latter responds within a maximum period of 45 days to determine its position regarding the use of the right of pre-emption and the purchase, or lack thereof, of Vodafone’s share.

According to El-Wardany, there are other possible scenarios. Vodafone International may not be convinced of the offer or the conditions presented by the Saudi side and the sale may be withdrawn, or the Vodafone group may be ready to sell and has prepared another buyer for its stake in Egypt in the event of rejecting the Saudi offer. It may also it back away from the deal and continue to operate in Egypt for a few more years.

El-Wardany said that if Telecom Egypt decides not to use the right of pre-emption to acquire the remaining Vodafone shares for any reason, it will continue with its 44.8 percent stake.
It may also resort to selling all of its shares or part of it to the Saudi side or to any company that wants to acquire its stake.

“This raises the question of whether STC can acquire all of Vodafone’s shares,” El-Wardany said, adding that the coming months “will make the answer clear.”