The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) has hired Credit Agricole, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, and Standard Chartered to serve on an ESG panel. The panel will advise the PIF on its medium-term capital raising strategy. Sources estimate that developing an ESG framework could serve as a precursor to a multibillion-dollar bond sale.
Developing an ESG framework could help the PIF secure loans as it increases its ESG investments. The loan would service two purposes by diversifying the PIF’s investments while also granting it access to capital it may not have been eligible for otherwise.
The Path Toward ESG Investments
Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has reached out to banks to help it attract more ESG-focused investors. The country’s sovereign wealth fund has US$400 billion in assets under management (AUM).
The fund’s purpose is to put the country’s public interest at heart by investing in assets that will grow the wealth of the nation in line with its political interests. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has made it public that he wants to diversify the country’s investments to include more than just oil and gas by 2030. The PIF serves as the primary vehicle to do that.
According to Reuters, the PIF has been funded with tens of billions of dollars in loans. It will also likely face an audit and other measures before it can develop an ESG framework.
The country has officially stated several targets and ambitions between 2021 and 2025. By 2025, it wants to grow its AUM to US$1.07 trillion, invest an additional US$40 billion per year, have over 20% of its AUM invested in what it considers “new and growth sectors,” and create 1.8 million direct and indirect jobs. It’s quite the jump from what the fund accomplished over the last five years, which was the creation of 331,000 direct and indirect jobs and increasing AUM by about US$250 billion.
Unlike other investment vehicles, the PIF also has the purpose of beefing up the country’s military and industrial might. The fund’s five strategic sectors are aerospace and defense, automotive, transport and logistics, food and agriculture, and construction and building components and services.
In sum, the fund’s primary objectives have nothing to do with ESG, although the country could very well serve as a large investor in ESG projects, but only if they produce returns and contribute to its other objectives.
In August, Saudi Arabia’s first wind farm connected to the grid and is producing carbon-free electricity.
Dumat al-Jandal is the region’s largest wind farm, and is made up of 99 wind turbines, each with the capacity to generate electricity for up to 70,000 homes in the kingdom, Saudi Arabia-based Al Arabiya reported.
The 400-MW utility-scale wind power project is being developed by a group led by EDF Renewables and Masdar. The project has created more than 600 jobs during the construction phase only, according to Al Arabiya. “The outstanding commitment shown by our teams and contractors with the implementation of the highest health and safety standards and the full support provided by the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Energy, Saudi Power Procurement Company [SPCC] and the Saudi Electricity Company [SEC] have contributed to the successful execution of the project during this extremely challenging pandemic period,” said Olivier Marchand, project director of Dumat al-Jandal Wind Co for Energy LLC. “We are now looking forward to successfully reaching, with our partners and contractors, the full commissioning of the project in the months to come.”
Its construction began in September 2019, and the wind turbine erection works are near completion, the Gulf News reported. When complete, the farm will be saving 1.089 million tons (988,000 tonnes) of carbon dioxide (CO₂) per year in support of Saudi Arabia’s climate change mitigation goals. “Masdar is proud to be leveraging its experience in renewable energy to deliver the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s first wind farm in collaboration with our partners,” said Masdar’s Country Representative Osama al-Othman. “The successful connection of the project to the electricity transmission grid marks an important milestone for this landmark project in the kingdom and we look forward to project’s completion in the near future.”
The farm is part of the Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, a reform project intended to diversify the economy and move Saudi Arabia away from its dependency on oil.