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Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund assigned debut credit ratings

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has been assigned debut ratings by agencies Fitch and Moody’s as the government-owned $500bn sovereign fund prepares to extend credit facilities and raise public debt to fund its massive spending and investment commitments at home and abroad.

Fitch Ratings issued PIF with a long-term default rating of A, with a stable outlook. Moody’s gave an A1 long-term rating baseline credit assessment. Both agencies issued their ratings based on the creditworthiness of the government of Saudi Arabia, which owns PIF and is very likely to support the sovereign wealth fund, if needed.

The ratings are a precursor to the fund potentially launching “green bonds” and extending $15bn in bank facilities as the PIF seeks to raise more debt, alongside tapping the kingdom’s oil revenues, to fund Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious domestic development plans that aim to plan for a future beyond oil.

“PIF has evolved into becoming one of the kingdom’s main vehicles to grow the kingdom’s non-oil economy and reduce its reliance on the hydrocarbon sector,” Moody’s said. PIF had been mandated to expand its assets, unlock new sectors for the country, bring in cutting edge technology and build partnerships at home and abroad, it added.

Over the past five years, PIF’s assets under management have increased from $152bn in 2015 to $412bn in 2020. Moody’s said it expected the fund to grow further in the coming years. PIF’s current assets under management are estimated at around $500bn.

Fitch said government cash injections into PIF totalled $77bn over the past three years. It has also received other grants such as land transfers for domestic investments.

These local investments, such as the futuristic city of Neom, made up 67 per cent of the fund’s portfolio as of December 2020, Moody’s said. The fund has also been on an international acquisition drive, investing in businesses as diverse as electric vehicle manufacturer Lucid Motors and the Premier League football club Newcastle United.

“The rating reflects its standalone creditworthiness . . . combined with a ‘very high’ level of interdependence between the kingdom and PIF and a ‘very high’ likelihood of extraordinary support being provided to PIF from the Kingdom if ever required,” it added.

The fund had an “excellent” liquidity profile, with a net cash position of $45bn as of September 2021 and access to $15bn in credit facilities, Moody’s said.

The wealth fund, which is chaired by Prince Mohammed, is a driving force in the kingdom’s plan to diversify its economy beyond petroleum and hit green targets, including net zero emissions by 2060.

“PIF considers the renewable energy sector as one of its strategic sectors and is committed to develop 70 per cent of Saudi Arabia’s renewable energy target of 58.5 gigawatts by 2030,” Moody’s said.

The wealth fund’s diverse portfolio meant that many of its investments had low exposure to environmental and social risk, Moody’s said.

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