Saudi PIF exits Warren Buffett flagship

The PIF cut its exposure to American firms to $7.05 billion as of Sept. 30, down 30 percent from $10.1 billion the previous quarter, it said in a filing on Monday to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). (File/Shutterstock)
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Updated 17 November 2020

Saudi PIF exits Warren Buffett flagship

  • Sovereign wealth fund reduces US holdings by $3bn, latest filings show
  • During the second quarter of the year, PIF sold 50 percent of its stake in Berkshire Hathaway

DUBAI:  Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has reduced its equity holdings in US companies by almost $3 billion, including selling its remaining stake in Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, according to new official figures.

The PIF cut its exposure to American firms to $7.05 billion as of Sept. 30, down 30 percent from $10.1 billion the previous quarter, it said in a filing on Monday to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The fund maintained its shares in ride-hailing firm Uber, where its stake is worth $2.657 billion; entertainment operator Live Nation, where it owns shares worth $677 million; and cruise ship company Carnival, where its stake was valued at $771.6 million.

It also has interests in sustainable energy firm Suncor Energy ($623.4 million) and human resources management services firm Automatic Data Processing ($206.7 million), while it bought a $154.6 million stake in gold mining firm NovaGold.

During the second quarter of the year, PIF sold 50 percent of its stake in Berkshire Hathaway, the investment firm led by Warren Buffett, and now has offloaded the remainder of its shares, worth around $39 million, according to the filing.

PIF’s divestment comes as Berkshire Hathaway released its own quarterly SEC filing the same day, showing that Buffett has reduced his holding in iPhone manufacturer Apple and pinned his investment hopes on pharmaceuticals, with stakes in brands such as Merck, Bristol Myers Squibb, AbbVie and Pfizer.

The fund also exited from Silicon Valley technology firm Cisco, freight hauler Union Pacific, online travel operator Booking Holdings, and hydrocarbon explorer Canadian Natural.

PIF regularly adjusts its exposure to US companies. In the second quarter of this year it sold its remaining shares in household names such as Boeing, Facebook, Marriott International and Walt Disney.

The fund has focused on India in recent months, taking a $1.3 billion stake in Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd. and a $1.5 billion holding in digital services firm Jio Platforms, a trend that is likely to continue.

“Although the US will remain an important destination, there is a shift toward developing and expanding relations closer to home, notably India,” Rachna Uppal, director of research at consultancy firm Azure Strategy, told Reuters.

PIF was set up five years ago and manages around $360 billion of funds. It invests in a portfolio of international companies in a bid to reduce the Kingdom’s reliance on hydrocarbons.


Saudi Arabia signs deal with German firm to distribute COVID-19 vaccine

Updated 1 min 23 sec ago

Saudi Arabia signs deal with German firm to distribute COVID-19 vaccine

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has signed an agreement with a German firm to supply and distribute a coronavirus vaccine in the Kingdom.
Saudi Pharmaceutical Industries and Medical Appliances Corp. (SPIMACO) said on Sunday that it had signed the agreement with biopharmaceutical company CureVac on Nov. 27.
Under the agreement, SPIMACO will apply for the necessary approvals from the Ministry of Health and the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) to meet the requirements for distributing the vaccine.
The CureVac vaccine successfully passed the first phase of clinical trials in early November. 
Results showed an increase in virus-neutralizing antibodies in all participants who took the dose, and more than 90 percent of patients were shown to have developed antibodies against both the receptors and the COVID-19 spike protein.
CureVac is aiming to lodge a submission to the European Medicines Agency during the first quarter of 2021.
The agreement includes the possibility of extending the supply and distribution rights to the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.
The announcement is part of the Saudi government’s initiatives to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 
In a statement on Nov. 11, Abdullah Al-Assiri, assistant deputy minister for preventive health, said the government had previously signed an agreement to receive early supplies of two or three different vaccines that were in the final stages of their clinical trials.
“Saudi Arabia will be one of the first countries to receive the vaccines,” he said during an interview on Saudia TV.
Saudi health officials have previously announced plans to offer free vaccinations by the end of 2021 to 70 percent of residents who have not contracted the virus.