Saudi Fund, SoftBank Deny Their Solar Venture Is on Hold

(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. both said they’re continuing to collaborate on solar energy plans after the Wall Street Journal said their $200 billion development was put on hold.

"Progress continues to be in line with expectations for a project of this scale and complexity,” a Softbank spokesperson said in an emailed statement Tuesday. Earlier, the desert kingdom’s Public Investment Fund said it’s working with the SoftBank Vision Fund and other institutions on a number of major multi-billion dollar solar projects.

Saudi Arabia and SoftBank signed a memorandum of understanding in March to develop the solar power project, which was set to become larger than any other. In a report published Sept. 30, the Journal cited Saudi officials as saying no one is actively working on the venture. The project was planned to ultimately generate about 200 gigawatts of energy, the newspaper reported.

SoftBank said it’s been working closely with the PIF and key government agencies for months to deliver on the so-called New Solar Energy Plan 2030. The Japanese company “is bringing its full technological and operating expertise to bear on the program, and we look forward to announcing further progress with our partners in the coming months," it said.

The kingdom is moving ahead with its renewable-energy strategy as part of the oil-rich country’s economic transformation plan, the PIF said in an emailed statement.

Read more: Saudi Arabia and SoftBank Plan World’s Largest Solar Project

Although the government has said it is working on major solar projects, little has been achieved so far amid other signs the country’s economic reform push is losing steam. In August, the initial public offering of Saudi Arabian Oil Co., or Aramco, was put on ice. The sale of a stake in King Khaled International Airport has been put on hold, according to people familiar with the process.

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