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Crown prince speech gives window into Saudi sovereign fund

The Public Investment Fund is unrecognizable from the sleepy vehicle it was until 2015. More risk has led to some bad investments, but the crown prince says overall returns are good. Can they stay that way?

Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Shura Council

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is the most eye-catching sovereign wealth fund in the world, thanks to bold and contrarian positions in companies such as Carnival and Boeing, acquired in the depths of the Covid crisis.

However, it is light on practical information about its overall performance.

A rare exception came on Friday, when crown prince Mohammed bin Salman gave a speech before the country’s Shura Council. He used the speech to cover a range of information about the economy, and within it was some unexpected detail about the PIF.

According to the Saudi Press Agency, he said: “The Public Investment Fund has become one of the major drivers of growth for the Saudi economy. We were able to double the volume of the PIF from SAR560 billion [$149 billion] to more than approximately SAR1.3 trillion, with a steady pace towards achieving the goal of Vision 2030 that the fund’s assets exceed SAR7 trillion.

“Not only that, since the fund was established, the rate of return on investment did not exceed 2% in the best case.

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