The Public Investment Fund (PIF) is growing more and more like a banyan tree: developing accessory trunks that allow it to spread outwards indefinitely. The Saudi SWF has a central strategy, which is “driving the growth of new sectors, companies and jobs, as a catalyst of Vision 2030” but is writing history as it goes.
Only this week, the tree has developed three new branches: it announced Diriyah as its fifth giga project, it signed a JV with Saudi miner Ma’aden (of which it owns 67%) to pursue investments overseas; and it is rumored to be considering the purchase of wrestling promotion company WWE, after years of hosting mixed martial arts and wrestling events in the Kingdom.
Wrestling would be integrated into an impressive portfolio of Media, Entertainment, Sports and Leisure assets, which includes:
Gaming: PIF has been investing in e-sports since 2020, and created subsidiary Savvy Gaming Group in 2021. The entity has already invested over US$ 10 bn in Japan, Korea, Sweden, Germany and the US, and it aims at reaching US$ 38 bn by 20230.
Golf: The fund established subsidiary LIV Golf Investments and invested an estimated US$ 0.2 bn in creating LIV Golf League to compete against the PGA Tour, with Greg Norman as CEO.
Football: The acquisition of 80% in British Premier League Newcastle was not PIF’s first deal in the sport. The fund committed US$2.3 bn in domestic sponsorships, including a deal between Qiddiya Investment Company and Al-Nassr FC (CR7’s new club).
The Hospitality branch is also booming on its own. In addition to all giga projects, which all have an element of tourism, PIF owns a stake in French group AccorInvest and in Swiss entity Aman Resorts, and recently unveiled its own ultra-luxury brand Boutique Group, which will initially focus on the development of Al Hamra Palace in Jeddah, and Tuwaiq Palace and Red Palace in Riyadh.
The Saudi fund seems to have no limits in creativity and has announced in the past few months the development of a new coffee company (Saudi Coffee Co.), a US$ 30 bn airline (RIA), and its own electric vehicle brand Ceer. All three companies have the potential of becoming regional powerhouses in the next few years. And if this wasn’t enough, the fund operates several subsidiaries including Sanabil Investments, TAQNIA, Jada Fund of Funds, and STC Ventures that are building their own impressive portfolios, and a 17% of Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding.
To certain extent, the trajectory of the Saudi fund reminds us of the path followed by Qatar’s QIA in the late 2000s and early 2010s, when it bought Harrods (retail), expanded Qatari Diar and Katara Hospitality (Hotels), and it established Qatar Mining (Energy), among other initiatives. It is certainly grabbing as many headlines as QIA did back then, although the dimension of Saudi Arabia and of PIF are obviously much larger.
One thing is for sure – we will keep hearing about PIF, as the growing prospects of Saudi Arabia’s banyan tree are limitless.