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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

SoftBank Vision Fund evaluates "significant" Saudi Electricity stake acquisition

Saudi government would retain controlling shareholding

Masayoshi Son, the chairman and chief executive officer of SoftBank, speaking at the Future Investment Initiative summit in Riyadh. Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg
Masayoshi Son, the chairman and chief executive officer of SoftBank, speaking at the Future Investment Initiative summit in Riyadh. Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg

SoftBank may take a "large stake" in Saudi Electricity as part of an agreement with the country's Public Investment Fund (PIF) to develop solar capacity in the newly announced US$500 billion NEOM investment zone.

PIF, the majority shareholder of Saudi Electric (SEC), signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday with SoftBank Vision Fund for the utility to develop 3 gigawatts of solar energy in 2018, Saudi Electric said in a statement on the Saudi stock exchange.

The Softbank chief executive Masayoshi Son told delegates at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh that the fund would make a "significant investment in the company", giving no further details.

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The Saudi government would retain a controlling stake in the utility, the company said.

SEC's assets are estimated to be $100bn. The Saudi government has been considering privatising the company for years. It is not clear how the possible transaction will affect those plans.

The oil juggernaut Saudi Aramco currently owns nearly 7 per cent of SEC while the rest is held by the public.

The PIF and SoftBank Vision Fund will also build manufacturing and storage solar facilities and create jobs in the kingdom.

Due diligence will be completed by the end of February next year, SEC said.

SoftBank Vision Fund has raised more than $93bn to invest in technology sectors such as artificial intelligence and robotics.