Saudis to come in with RM6bil investment

By Wong Chun Wai, The Star

LONDON: PetroSaudi, a global private investment company owned by the Saudi royal family, is expected to invest billions of ringgit in Malaysia.

The international oil exploration and production company has indicated interest to invest over US$2bil (RM6.2bil) in the infrastructure and energy sectors.

The company already has an RM8.7bil joint venture with 1Malaysia Development Bhd, a wholly Government-owned firm, which acts as a vehicle for Middle East investments in Malaysia.

The joint venture is expected to focus on global strategic assets in petroleum-related industries, renewable energy and power, for the benefit of lowering the cost of energy in Malaysia.

“Ultimately, the bulk of the capital and returns will be reinvested in Malaysia,” said banking sources.

The sources said PetroSaudi is also eyeing significant direct investment in Malaysia’s Islamic banking sector.

Details are not immediately available but the sources said discussions were on-going which would feature Malaysia in the roadmap of Islamic banking.

“Over the next few months, exciting developments will take place to boost Malaysia’s position, especially participation from long-term Middle-Eastern investors,” said a government source.

Cash rich PetroSaudi, founded by the Saudi royal family with Tarek Essam Ahmad Obaid leading the charge, has been snapping up value investments.

Last week, it acquired Malaysian builder UBG Bhd for RM1.5bil by raising its stake to 89.8% after its three stakeholders agreed to sell the company and its two subsidiaries.

At the same time, PetroSaudi also leased a US$2.5bil (RM7.7bil) platform to Venezuela’s state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA as announced by Venezuela’s Energy Minister.

The platform will be used to develop offshore natural gas resources in the country, which has the most natural gas reserves in South America.

Saudi sources said Tarek, a partner of Renault F1 team, had a positive impression of Malaysia with support from the Saudi royal family, whose relationship with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is at an all-time high.

In January, Najib was awarded the King Abdul Aziz Order of Merit (Ist Class) by King Abdullah Abdulaziz Al Saud, the first Asian leader to be given the honour.

The highest Saudi civilian award was also given to US President Barack Obama when he visited the country last year.

“The relationship between King Abdullah and Najib is important.

“It has been crucial in the support showed by the Saudis, initially through PetroSaudi and more substantial foreign direct investiment is expected,” the Saudi sources added.

The sources said yesterday that key members of the Saudi royal family were expected to visit Malaysia over the next three months when several major announcements would be made.

In Kuala Lumpur, analysts say the US$2bil from PetroSaudi Inter­national Ltd is expected to provide a boost to the domestic economy.

A bank-backed analyst believed that the investment from the Arab country would pave the way for more capital inflow from the Gulf.

“It (investment from PetroSaudi) will bring a positive spill-over to other sectors of the economy.

“It will provide positive reverberations for Malaysia’s real economy,” another analyst said without elaborating.

A power analyst expects the oil exploration and production company to invest in the energy sector, given the opportunity in the green energy sector and that the Government was promoting green energy.