Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Bloomberg during a five-hour interview at the royal compound in Riyadh that the country plans to sell its stake in the state-owned oil company, Aramco, and heavily invest in its Public Investment Fund in order to help it transition to an economy not based solely on oil.
Bin Salman said that Aramco’s initial public offering would happen by 2018, where the country would sell off its shares — around five percent — and Aramco would transition to an “industrial conglomerate.”
The transition away from oil will be a long a difficult one. Aramco generated $378 billion in revenue in 2014, and oil revenues are the largest proportion of Saudi Arabia’s GDP. The country is the second largest producer of petroleum (behind the US), producing more than 11 million barrels per day in 2014, according to the US Energy Information Agency, and as of 2015, it contained approximately 268 billion barrels of crude oil proved reserves.
However, bin Salman told Bloomberg that transferring its shares from Aramco to the Public Investment Fund would eventually enable the PIF to control more than $2 trillion, which it would use to diversify its investments. In particular, he said that the country planned to increase the proportion of foreign investments to around 50 percent of the fund by 2020 from five percent now.
In the interview, bin Salman did not specify where those foreign investments would go, but said that the PIF is looking at two foreign opportunities in the financial industry.
Saudi Arabia’s attempts to diversify beyond oil may surprise some countries that attended the climate talks in Paris last December. There, many accused the country of trying to derail agreements to cut greenhouse gas emissions and argued that it should be compensated for the loss of its future oil income.