December 19, 2017 / 6:08 PM / a year ago

Saudi Arabia considers creating privatisation fund - economy minister

Buildings are seen in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 18, 2017. Picture taken December 18, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s economy minister said on Tuesday that his country was studying the idea of creating a national privatisation fund to facilitate sales of state assets.

“Personally I think it is a valid concept,” Mohammed al-Tuwaijri said in an interview. Such a fund would bundle together state assets and be sold to Saudi citizens at a discount, letting them profit from privatisations; it has been suggested by analysts at State Street Global Advisors and elsewhere.

However, Tuwaijri added that the idea would need many approvals to become reality.

He said that among all the state assets earmarked for sale, efforts to sell assets in the water and grains sectors had made the most progress.

“Water desalination is ahead of others. SAGO silos and grains are ahead of others. When I say that, they’ve appointed advisers, their requirements to the capital markets are almost there, the private sector appetite is secured,” he said.

“The question is timing - how will this fit with the other programmes and the privatisation programme itself.”

The government said earlier this year that it planned to raise about $200 billion through its privatisation programme in coming years, in addition to some $100 billion through the sale of a stake in national oil giant Saudi Aramco in 2018.

Tuwaijri said the initial public offer process for Aramco was on track and a decision on where the shares would be listed would be made in due course. All options, including a possible private placement of shares, are under consideration, he said.

In addition to listing Aramco in Riyadh, officials have been considering one or more foreign markets such as New York, London and Hong Kong.

Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Andrew Torchia

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