Saudi sovereign fund PIF boosts U.S. equities exposure to over $15 billion


By Davide Barbuscia

DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has increased its U.S. stock holdings to $15.4 billion in the first quarter from nearly $12.8 billion at the end of 2020, according to a U.S. regulatory filing on Monday.

The Public Investment Fund (PIF) bought 2.9 million class A shares in SoftBank Group Corp-backed Coupang Inc, equivalent to $141 million, and dissolved its share stake in Suncor Energy, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

It more than doubled its position in Activision Blizzard to 33.4 million shares from 15 million shares at the end of the fourth quarter, which led it to a $3.1 billion exposure from $1.4 billion.

The fund increased its shares in Electronic Arts Inc to 14.2 million, equivalent to $1.9 billion, from a $1.1 billion position at the end of the previous quarter.

PIF, which did not immediately respond to a comment request on the filing, is at the centre of Saudi Arabia’s plans to transform the economy by creating new sectors and diversifying revenues away from oil.

The $400 billion fund is expected to inject at least $40 billion annually in the local economy until 2025, and increase its assets to $1 trillion by that date, which would make it one of the world’s biggest sovereign wealth funds.

“PIF would have wanted to take advantage of the bullish sentiment in equity markets in Q1 to make opportunistic investments and add to its portfolio,” said Rachna Uppal, director of research at Azure Strategy.

“In line with domestic efforts to achieve the objectives of Vision 2030, the Saudis also appear to be favouring investments into sectors such as technology, mobility, and especially future mobility, tourism and entertainment,” she said.

At the start of last year PIF piled up minority stakes in companies worldwide, taking advantage of market weakness caused by the coronavirus crisis.

Monday’s filing showed the value of its biggest U.S. stock holding, Uber Technologies, rose to nearly $4 billion in the first quarter, from $3.7 billion as of Dec. 31, as the ride-hailing company’s shares gained value during the period.

PIF was an early investor in Uber, taking a $3.5 billion stake in 2016, three years before its listing in 2019.

($1 = 3.7502 riyals)

(Reporting by Davide Barbuscia, additional reporting by Karina Dsouza; Editing by Richard Chang)