By Rory Jones and Summer Said
In the coronavirus pandemic’s financial fallout, Saudi Arabia’s $300 billion sovereign-wealth fund has emerged as one of the world’s biggest bargain hunters, taking minority stakes worth billions of dollars in American corporations.
The Public Investment Fund in the first quarter bought shares valued at about half a billion dollars each in Facebook Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB +0.38% , Walt Disney Co. /zigman2/quotes/203410047/composite DIS +0.13% , Marriott International Inc. /zigman2/quotes/200170042/composite MAR -4.16% and Cisco Systems Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209509471/composite CSCO +1.94% , according to a U.S. regulatory filing late Friday. The fund bought financial stocks, investing $522 million in Citigroup Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207741460/composite C -2.81% and $488 million in Bank of America Corp. /zigman2/quotes/200894270/composite BAC -1.43% , while also spending $714 million on a stake in Boeing Co. /zigman2/quotes/208579720/composite BA -3.78%
The purchases, reported in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, follow disclosures last month of stakes each valued at nearly $500 million in cruise operator Carnival Corp. /zigman2/quotes/202325446/composite CCL -4.83% and concert promoter Live Nation Entertainment Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203077299/composite LYV -2.19%
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s day-to-day ruler, tasked the sovereign-wealth fund in 2015 with diversifying the country’s economy away from oil by investing in companies and industries untethered to hydrocarbons.
PIF’s recent buying spree highlights a bold strategy of piling into global stocks even as the novel coronavirus and a crash in oil prices mean that Saudi Arabia’s financial position is now the most precarious in a decade. The Saudi government last week tripled its value-added tax rate and cut subsidies to state employees as it contends with lower oil revenue and an economy weakening under coronavirus lockdown.
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