Saudi to establish its first sovereign wealth fund

Saudi Arabia will establish its first sovereign wealth fund to manage budget surpluses worth hundreds of billions of dollars, the kingdom’s state news agency has reported.

The Shoura Council is expected to discuss a draft law for the National Reserve Fund on Monday and Tuesday.

The fund would take over management of the oil rich kingdom’s investments from the central bank.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest crude oil exporter and has significantly benefited from the rise in oil prices, which have been at more than $100 a barrel for several years.

There are no official figures available, but financial experts estimate Saudi Arabia’s combined assets are worth about $700bn, according to AFP.

It has not been revealed whether the fund would change the kingdom’s investment strategy, which has primarily been to take up US bonds.

Other Gulf SWFs have invested in property internationally, primarily in Europe.

The Saudi fund would be responsible for investing state reserves to "assure the kingdom's financial stability", Shoura Council financial affairs committee member Saad Mareq told Saudi daily Asharq Al Awsat.

The newspaper said the fund would start with capital representing 30 percent of budgetary surpluses accumulated over a number of years.

In the past three years alone, the kingdom has announced budget surpluses totalling about $232bn.

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