Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia's PIF buys stakes in Boeing, Citi, Disney, Facebook

Yasir al-Rumayyan, governor of Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund speaks during a press conference in the eastern Saudi Arabian region of Dhahran on November 3, 2019.. (File photo: AFP)

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund bought billions of dollars of stock as the global pandemic took root, reporting significant stakes on Friday in companies including BP Plc, Boeing Co., Citigroup Inc. and Facebook Inc.

The Public Investment Fund (PIF), which until five years ago was a holding company for government stakes in domestic businesses, disclosed an $827.8 million stake in BP, a $713.7 million investment in Boeing and $522 million positions in both Citigroup and Facebook at the end of the first quarter. Other bets include $495.8 million on Walt Disney Co. and $487.6 million on Bank of America Corp.

The PIF is looking into "any opportunity arising from the economic wreckage of the crisis," the fund’s governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, said at a virtual event in April. The fund expects to see "lots of opportunities, he predicted at the time, citing airlines, energy and entertainment companies as examples."

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Behind the scenes, as coronavirus outbreaks disrupted commerce and drove stock prices to their lowest levels in years, the $320 billion sovereign wealth fund reassigned staff to find bargains to broaden its global portfolio, people familiar with the plan have said.

The investments disclosed in a quarterly filing Friday amount to a bet that marquee names of the corporate world will rebound as many facets of life return to normal.

Other holdings described by the fund include a $513.9 million investment in hotel owner Marriott International Inc. that’s even greater than the PIF’s previously disclosed wager on cruise operator Carnival Corp. Both companies are contending with a virtual shutdown in global travel.

Similarly, the fund gathered a $416.1 million stake in concert promoter Live Nation Entertainment Inc., which faces bans on large gatherings.

The fund also amassed shares of Canadian oil sands players Suncor Energy Inc. and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., on top of investments that previously emerged in Equinor ASA, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Total SA and Eni SpA.

The bargain-hunting contrasted with retreats by the likes of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which previously announced a full exit from investments in four major US airlines. On Friday, Berkshire also disclosed that it sold off most of a longtime investment in Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and trimmed stakes in companies including JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Coincidentally, the fund bought a $78.4 million stake in Berkshire as well.

The PIF’s mandate was broadened in 2015 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to include international investments to support economic diversification.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 10:06 - GMT 07:06
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