Environment

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund overtakes Singapore’s GIC to top spending table

Skyline of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.
Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) was the top spender among global sovereign wealth funds last year, accounting for about a quarter of the $124 billion splashed by state-owned investors, according to a preliminary report by research consultancy Global SWF.

The Saudi fund boosted its deal activities from a total $20.7 billion in 2022 to $31.6 billion in 2023, the research said, even as most other counterparts tapered down their spending. Overall, global sovereign wealth funds deployed 20% fewer funds compared to 2022, despite most major stock markets seeing a rally last year.

“This may signal an overly cautious approach, as there is no shortage of capital to put to work among these institutions,” the report, which tracks activities across the world’s sovereign funds, noted. 

“The clear winner was Saudi’s PIF, which has become a heavy-hitter both at home and overseas,” the analysts wrote. The PIF, controlled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has total estimated assets of $776 billion. The Saudi fund has pursued frequent deals and joint ventures in its pursuit toward Vision 2030 — a plan originally launched back in 2016 which aims to increase economic diversification away from oil. Notable overseas investments in 2023, alongside golf and soccer, included Nintendo in Japan and Vale Basic Materials in Brazil. 

Asides from PIF, four other funds from the GCC (Gulf Corporation Council) made it into the top 10 — Mubadala, the Qatar Investment Authority, ADQ and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

The PIF even surpassed Singapore’s GIC, which had led spending by wealth funds for the past six years. The Singaporean fund slashed its investment activity by 37%, in terms of volume, despite receiving one of its largest inflows from the central bank.

The report also noted the attention given to emerging markets among several sovereign investors. 

“In 2023 we can observe a renewed interest in emerging markets, including Saudi, Türkiye, and the UAE (with the help of domestic SWFs), and India, Brazil, China, and Indonesia,” it stated. 

Global economies will see more sovereign wealth funds coming online in 2024, such as Hong Kong’s HKIC, Philippines’ Maharlika and Pakistan’s PSWF.

“The formation of Dubai’s new SWF, DIF, will send shock waves and will surely attract personnel from other SWFs,” the research said.

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