City firms look to take part in Saudi Arabia's multi-billion pound transformation plan

Tracey Boles
Saudi oil facility (Source: Getty)

Leading City banking, law and project management firms are meeting in Saudi Arabia today as they weigh up whether to take part in the country's National Transformation Programme.

The programme, which will reduce Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil and move towards a diverse economy by 2030, is expected to generate $267bn per year in business opportunities. Saudi Arabia has said it would welcome investment by British firms, particularly after Brexit.

Sources say that representatives from City big guns such as banking giant HSBC, an associate of the Saudi British bank, and professional services firm PwC are due to attend a major infrastructure planning and financing meeting in Riyadh today. Other City players expected to be present include law firms DLA Piper, Mishcon de Reya and Pinsent Masons, as well as infrastructure experts Amec Foster Wheeler.

Hosted by the Council of Saudi Chambers in Riyadh, and organised by the Saudi British Joint Business Council (SBJBC), the meeting will bring together leading Saudi and British companies with Saudi government representatives to asses ambitious infrastructure project planning and project financing plans, including through public-private partnerships. The event is supported by the UK’s Department for International Trade which is headed by Liam Fox.

Chris Innes-Hopkins, UK Executive Director of the SBJBC said: “UK companies have considerable experience of public private partnerships (PPP), including building the necessary frameworks for private sector financing and management of major projects.

"We will consider case studies of some PPP projects and lessons learned. It will also include panel sessions on business planning, management of contractual structures, and risk allocation between the public and private sectors addressed by leading Saudi and UK practitioners.”

Saudi Arabia intends to diversify away from oil, instead deploying its huge financial reserves into sectors like mining, health, tourism, solar energy and education.

Earlier this year, it invested $3.5bn in US ride-hailing firm Uber. And the kingdom recently announced a tie up with Japan's SoftBank Group to create a technology investment fund that could grow as large as $100bn, making it one of the world's largest private equity investors and a potential kingpin in the industry.

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