Saudi Wealth Fund Loads Up on Video-Game Makers and Exits Suncor
(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund doubled down on its pandemic-era investments in video-game makers and added new bets as it raised holdings of U.S. stocks by about a fifth to $15.4 billion.
The Public Investment Fund brought its total commitment to video-game makers including Activision Blizzard Inc., Electronic Arts Inc. and Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. to $6 billion during the first quarter, according to regulatory filings on Monday. Those holdings were valued at $3.3 billion at the end of the fourth quarter.
The PIF also added to its roster by buying $141 million worth of stock in South Korean e-commerce giant Coupang Inc., whose biggest backer is Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group Corp.
Another new investment last quarter included Compute Health Acquisition Corp., a blank-check company set up by Intel Corp. Chairman Omar Ishrak, with the PIF buying a 8.7% stake for $75.7 million. The fund exited its stake in Suncor Energy Inc., Canada’s top integrated oil producer, selling 51 million shares.
The $400 billion PIF is funded through a mixture of borrowing, cash and asset transfers from the government, and retained earnings from its investments. Chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and managed by Governor Yasir Al Rumayyan, the fund has outlined a plan to grow its assets to over 4 trillion riyals ($1.1 trillion) by 2025.
As the PIF is positioning itself to power the local economy, it’s also made several high-profile investments in recent years, including a stake in Uber Technologies Inc. and big commitments to Softbank’s Vision Fund.
Still, at the moment almost all its assets are local. It holds large stakes in some of the kingdom’s biggest companies, including Saudi Telecom Co. and Saudi National Bank. It wants to shift that balance to about 80% of its investments being local, according to Al Rumayyan.
The Riyadh-based fund acquired more than $3 billion worth of stock in the three U.S. video-game makers for the first time during the fourth quarter. By contrast, its exposure to U.S. equities in the third quarter fell by $3 billion, mainly because the PIF sold stakes in exchange-traded funds that track the real estate and materials sectors.
Prince Mohammed is a big fan of video games, particularly “Call of Duty,” Activision’s best-selling franchise. He told Bloomberg Businessweek in 2016 that he was part of the first Saudi generation to grow up with the gaming technology.
In the first quarter, the fund more than doubled its Activision Blizzard stake to 33.4 million shares and almost doubled its holding in Electronic Arts, reaching 14.2 million shares at the end of March. It also bought more shares of Take-Two Interactive Software.
The sovereign investor’s role will increasingly be to develop huge new projects around the country focused on building up new industries and diversifying the economy. Prince Mohammed has pledged it will spend at least $40 billion a year at home through 2025, creating new cities, resorts and 1.8 million jobs.
In the past, excess oil revenue was invested by the Saudi central bank, mostly in stable liquid assets like U.S. Treasuries. The kingdom missed an opportunity to buy cheap stocks during the 2008 global financial crisis, Al Rumayyan said in December.
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