Oman Sovereign Wealth Fund Focuses on Local Deals After Protests

The Omani sovereign wealth fund is boosting investment in tourism, mining and fisheries and reducing the proportion of its assets overseas as part of plans to soothe social discontent after protests two years ago.

The fund is seeking to have 70 percent of its assets in Oman and 30 percent in other emerging markets, compared with a current balance of 50-50, Chief Executive Officer Hassan Al-Nabhani said yesterday in an interview in Dubai, declining to give the value of the fund. It’s also looking at opportunities in India’s manufacturing industries, he said.

“We are trying to rejuvenate and achieve developmental goals in Oman through investments that are all commercially disciplined and seeking returns,” Al-Nabhani said.

Sultan Qaboos Bin Said has been taking measures to increase pay, create jobs and improve political representation after his forces repressed demonstrations that broke out mostly in the northern coastal city of Sohar. Those followed uprisings against poverty and dictatorships that shook Arab countries in 2011 and that led to regime change in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

Discontent in Oman was exacerbated by the nation’s proximity to richer oil-producing neighbors like the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. With a population of 2.7 million Omanis and 600,000 expatriates, it produces just about 850,000 barrels of oil a day. The U.A.E., with a population of 5.5 million of which 20 percent are nationals, produces 2.7 million barrels a day.

Municipal Elections

Oman last year held its first municipal elections and the Sultan in March pardoned activists sentenced to jail for taking part in the 2011 protests.

“The jewel of the crown is tourism, Oman is yet to reach its full potential in tourism,” Al-Nabhani said. “We think Oman has the potential to grow quite substantive fish farming throughout its coast; we are also quite keen on developing the mining sector, we have a number of resources, metal and non-metal reserves that are proven and ready to be invested.”

The Omani Investment Fund operates similarly to a private equity firm, working with government capital invested over periods of five to seven years, he said.

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