Saudi sovereign wealth fund controlled by MbS seeks $10 billion foreign loan

Saudi sovereign wealth fund controlled by MbS seeks $10 billion foreign loan
Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund is in the final stages of acquiring a $10 billion loan form foreign banks.
3 min read
12 July, 2019
Saudi Arabia's PIF hopes to hold $2 trillion assets by 2030 [Getty]

Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund could receive a $10 billion loan from some of the world's leading banks, The Financial Times reported on Friday.

The loan to the Public Investment Fund (PIF) comes amid a powerful diplomatic storm that has clouded Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over his alleged role in the murder of a Saudi dissident journalist last year. 

An agreement from the banks to finance the PIF - which is controlled by MbS - would be a sign that the crown prince won't face a major backlash over Jamal Khashoggi's murder many hoped.

Saudi's Public Investment Fund (PIF) is in the final stages of agreeing terms of the loan with a number of banks lining up to offer the money, including BNP Paribas, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Citigroup. 

A source told The Financial Times that the PIF is in "advanced discussions" with banks over the loan, which is due to be paid back by the end of the year when Saudi Aramco is due to make a cash injection into the sovereign wealth fund.

The PIF is helping fund a number of the crown prince's projects including the $500 billion futuristic NEOM city.

These are part of Crown Prince Mohammed's plans to diversify the kingdom's economy but others have described them as vanity projects.

Read also: Khashoggi's murder took global media freedom to rock bottom, but journalists are fighting back

Prince Mohammed still faces widespread criticism from human rights groups and lawyers over the murder of Khashoggi in October, which plunged the de-facto ruler into an international crisis, and possible legal consequences.

But he appears to have avoided a boycott from European powers. Last month, MbS appeared at last month's G20 summit in Tokyo and met with UK Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, warmly welcomed the crown prince on camera, in an apparent message that it was business as usual between the US and Saudi.

One bank official told The Financial Times that the G20 meeting was proof that MbS is out of the cold and there is little risk of an international boycott of Saudi Arabia.

"The issue is done now," the source said. 

The PIF has expanded its proportion of international assets from one percent ten percent, and hopes for a 50/50 domestic/international split in investments by 2035. 

It already holds stakes in powerful international companies such as Tesla and Uber.

The fund also wants to increase the assets it manages to $2 trillion by 2030, although it faces some spending commitments in the short term, including plans to open offices in London and New York.

"The fund needs to deploy a lot of money, quickly," a source told the agency.

Last year, the PIF also took out an unprecedented $11 billion loan.