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Saudi Arabia Strong Market for U.S. Companies, Ex-Im Head Says

Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s biggest economy, represents an “exceedingly” strong market for U.S. companies, Export-Import Bank Chairman Fred Hochberg said.

“Part of that has been driven by in this part of the world a diversification of economies,” Hochberg said in an interview yesterday in Riyadh. “We see a lot of opportunity here. U.S. companies haven’t been here sufficiently.”

The Saudi government has announced investment plans of more than $500 billion as the monarch tries to diversify the economy away from oil, which accounts for 90 percent of government revenue, and expand airports and build roads and rail lines. Saudi Arabia raised total spending in its budget by almost a fifth this year to $219 billion.

The Ex-Im Bank authorized in September a $5 billion loan to Sadara Chemical Co., a joint venture between Saudi Aramco and Dow Chemical Co. The credit for construction of the petrochemical complex in Jubail on the Persian Gulf boosted total Ex-Im Bank loans to the world’s largest exporter to $5.5 billion, or almost half of the $11.8 billion in loans authorized in 2012, according to the Washington-based bank’s annual report.

Power, water, rail and solar provide “opportunities” in Saudi Arabia that match “real U.S strengths,” Hochberg said. Ex-Im Band may provide additional financing to Saudi Electricity Corp., the kingdom’s largest utility, he said.

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