(MENAFN– IANS)

New Delhi, Feb 14 (IANS) Saudi Arabia has transferred shares worth $80 billion to its sovereign wealth fund as the oil-rich nation hopes to rival Norway and Singapores state-managed funds and invest in green projects, The Guardian reported.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, said 4 per cent of shares in Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil exporter, would be transferred to the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund as part of efforts to recalibrate the oil-dominated economy, the report said.

The transfer is the latest sign that Saudi Arabia wants to open up the oil giant and ‘crown jewel’ of the Saudi economy, the Arab world’s largest.

The Crown Prince was quoted as saying the ‘transfer of 4 per cent of Aramco shares to the Public Investment Fund (PIF) … is part of the kingdom’s long-term strategy to support the restructuring of its economy’.

He said the kingdom wants the investment fund to have $1tn in assets by the end of 2025. The fund, the centrepiece of official moves to end economic reliance on oil, had less than half that amount before this deal.

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest, said last month it earned a return of 14 per cent on its $1.3 trillion of investments, much of it from the sale of state-owned oil supplies. Singapore’s Temasek investment fund is worth more than $300 billion.

Crown Prince Mohammed stressed that the Saudi state would remain the dominant Aramco shareholder with a 94 per cent stake. He is also head of the sovereign PIF.

Aramco shares finished down by 0.6 per cent in Sunday trading after the announcement. But experts said the share switch would strengthen the sovereign fund, the report said.

The oil giant raised $6 billion in Islamic bonds in June last year so that it could pay dividends to the new shareholders.

But Aramco announced $30.4 billion in profits for the third quarter of 2021, a massive rise from $18.8 billion for the same quarter the previous year, as oil prices took off again, The Guardian reported.

–IANS

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