Skip to main content

Saudi Arabia tops league of sovereign investors in 2023

The kingdom spent more than $31.5bn in over 48 deals across the globe last year
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in Riyadh in 2021 (AFP)

Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund spent more than $31.5bn on investments in 2023, far outstripping investments by its Gulf peers according to a new report.

Riyadh's Public Investment Fund (PIF) topped the annual ranking of sovereign investment fund spending, compiled by the data platform Global SWF, for the first time.

The PIF closed more than 48 deals in 2023, up 33 percent from 2022, Global SWF said in its annual report on Monday.

Out of $123.8bn spent by sovereign wealth funds, the PIF accounts for just over a quarter of expenditure, spending one-third more than it did in 2022. 

Saudi Arabia is seeking to diversify its economy, and its investment spree is about ensuring that the kingdom could cushion its economic transition as smoothly as possible as it reduces its reliance on oil. 

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


Stakes by Saudi Arabia span an array of different sectors. In Britain it bought a 49 percent share in Sir Rocco Forte's luxury hotels group. 

In April of last year it spent $4.9bn to buy Californian mobile game developer Scopely, as well as becoming a major shareholder in Japan's Nintendo. PIF also bought a stake in Brazilian mining group Vale.

"In a short span of eight years since its reformulation, the Saudi institution has become a powerhouse both at home and overseas, with the objective of advancing Vision 2030 and of becoming the world's largest SWF by 2030," the report said.

"The variety of deals shows the unparalleled bandwidth and reach of PIF and its subsidiaries, which are forming a wide net to capture any value-add for Saudi Vision 2030," it added.

Saudi golf deal prompts accusations of hypocrisy and betrayal
Read More »

PIF also raised its stake in British luxury car maker Aston Martin to 20.5 percent, enlargening its profile in the automotive sector.

Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, has made the sovereign wealth fund central to his "Vision 2030" plan, which aims to revamp the kingdom's economy.

Riyadh's Gulf neighbours are also pursuing ambitious investment plans.

"The 'oil five' [five most active Middle Eastern funds] continued to gain market share and to drive the activity of SWFs globally, despite the drop in deals by Singaporean funds," Global SWF said.

Saudi Arabia's most famous and controversial investments in recent years have been in the world of sport.

PIF bought Newcastle United Football Club in 2021 and has spent heavily to attract some of the world’s most high-profile players to the Saudi Pro League. 

Saudi Arabia has been accused of "sportswashing", which involves laundering a country's poor human rights record through its association with high profile sporting events.

Mohammed Bin Salman has addressed the accusations, saying in a Fox News interview "I don't care", and adding that "if sportswashing increases my GDP by one percent then I will continue doing sportswashing".

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.