Saudi Arabia is eying a ‘sizeable’ investment to kick off kingdom’s foray into semiconductors

Saudi Arabia is eying a ‘sizeable’ investment to kick off kingdom’s foray into semiconductors

Saudi Arabia is eying a ‘sizeable’ investment to kick off kingdom’s foray into semiconductors

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund is planning to make big investments in both the semiconductor and space industries this year as the kingdom accelerates efforts to diversify its economy away from oil.

The Public Investment Fund is looking at making a “sizeable investment” this year into the semiconductor industry, Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Swaha said in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “They plan to make an announcement on a particular champion within the space to lead the Saudi efforts,” he said, declining to give further details.

Alswaha, who is chairman of the kingdom’s Space Agency as well, said the fund will also look to create a national space company to invest and acquire assets in that sector. The space industry is “ripe right now” for M&A, he said.

The fund, known as PIF, has emerged as one of the key parts of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plan to shake up the Saudi economy and wean it off a reliance on oil sales. It has rapidly built up assets of around US$700 billion after a spending spree on everything from electric carmakers to backing upstart golf tournaments, and plans to control US$1 trillion by 2025.

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One of its key initiatives has been to develop an auto manufacturing hub on the west coast of the kingdom. US EV maker Lucid Group is already assembling cars from the site, and is set to be joined by Hyundai Motor and Ceer, a brand created by the PIF. The plan involves developing downstream industries that is expected to also include making semiconductors and batteries.

The kingdom launched its space programme in 2018 and sent astronauts into space last year, as part of a wider plan to invest in the industry.

“The new space economy is definitely the next trillion-dollar opportunity,” Al-Swaha said. “The kingdom is very bullish on not only becoming a regional leader in this space but also a global leader. The ambition by 2030 is to definitely establish regional leadership and then move on by 2040 to global leadership.”

A key part of Saudi Arabia’s space investments will be in communications, Alswaha said. “2.6 billion people in 2024 are still not connected and the only way to connect the unconnected is from the skies.”

Alswaha said that Saudi Arabia expects to be able to continue to attract investment from both US and Chinese technologies companies, even as tensions between the world’s two largest economies escalate. The kingdom “has demonstrated our partnership with both east and west on protecting their intellectual property and patents and any potential technology leakage,” Alswaha said.

Saudi Arabia is “pro-investment, pro-partnership and open market,” he said. “Anybody that complies with our regulatory, security requirements, serves our national interest, we will work with.”

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