Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has been transforming almost as quickly as the country itself. In 2015, the Public Investment Fund, or PIF as it’s widely known, was a sleepy holding company for government investments that hardly anyone outside the kingdom had heard of. Now it’s closing in on $1 trillion in assets as it snaps up everything from soccer clubs to electric carmakers and bankrolls new cities in the desert. The shift underscores the urgency of its mission: to prepare the world’s biggest crude-exporting nation for a post-oil future.
Its biggest holdings are still in local businesses such as Saudi National Bank, Saudi Telecom Co. and national projects like Neom, a $500-billion city-state that would run entirely on renewable power and export green energy. Since 2016, when it committed $45 billion to SoftBank Group Corp.’s technology-focused Vision Fund, PIF’s foreign interests have mushroomed. A 2018 investment in electric carmaker Lucid Motors Inc. has soared in value to almost $40 billion. It also has stakes in video game makers Activision Blizzard Inc. and Electronic Arts Inc. and the digital services and retail businesses of Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani. In February, the government transferred an $80 billion stake in Saudi state oil giant Aramco to PIF to boost its assets as the fund prepared to tap the international bond market for the first time.