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Mon 29 Jun 2020 10:51 AM

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Saudi net foreign assets rise for first time since January

A cumulative decline of more than $47 billion in March and April was mainly due to a $40bn transfer from the central bank to the sovereign wealth fund

Saudi net foreign assets rise for first time since January

With reserves at the lowest in almost a decade, the world’s largest oil exporter has tried to rein in spending at home as it faces a double crisis from the outbreak and a major decline in energy revenue. 

Saudi Arabia’s net foreign assets rose in May, reversing three months of declines.

The stockpile climbed by about 3 billion riyals ($800 million) to reach $445 billion, according to a monthly report from the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority on Sunday.

Officials have said a cumulative decline of more than $47 billion in March and April was mainly due to a $40 billion transfer from the central bank to the sovereign wealth fund, intended to support investments abroad to take advantage of market turmoil during the coronavirus pandemic.

With reserves at the lowest in almost a decade, the world’s largest oil exporter has tried to rein in spending at home as it faces a double crisis from the outbreak and a major decline in energy revenue. The government, which counted on crude for over 60% of its income this year, is now contending with oil output cuts and prices well below its break-even level.

The International Monetary Fund sees Saudi Arabia’s economy contracting 6.8% this year.

The recent increase in oil prices has given officials slightly more breathing space, though the output cuts will result in less of a boost to public finances. Global benchmark Brent crude rose nearly 40% in May from April, and has traded at over $40 a barrel this month -- still far short of the $76.10 the IMF estimates Saudi Arabia needs to balance its budget.

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