PEZA sets sights on Saudi Arabia fund investment

A Saudi flag flutters atop Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 20, 2018. — REUTERS/HUSEYIN ALDEMIR

Jenina P. Ibañez, Reporter

THE PHILIPPINE Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) is looking to attract Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund for potential foreign direct investments into key areas in the Philippines.

PEZA Director-General Charito B. Plaza in a mobile message on Friday said the agency wants to attract the sovereign wealth fund, but it is still studying what form that would take.

“We want to avail of the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi government,” she said. “We’re studying (it because) Saudi investors want big-ticket investments, not medium or small.”

This would be the first time PEZA would try to tap a sovereign wealth fund for investments, she added.

Saudi Arabia in January announced that it plans to double its Public Investment Fund (PIF) to 4 trillion riyals (around $1.1 trillion) by 2025. The fund would invest 3 trillion riyals in new sectors over the next decade, Reuters reported.

The fund recently raised holdings of US stocks by a fifth to $15.4 billion in the first quarter, buying additional shares in video game firms Activision Blizzard, Inc. and Electronic Arts, Inc. It also bought shares in South Korean e-commerce firm Coupang, Inc.

Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product fell 3.3% in the first quarter due to lower oil production, but its non-oil economy rose 3.3%.

PEZA last month virtually met with Philippine Embassy to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to work together on attracting more foreign investments to the Philippines. Saudi Arabian firms in Philippine economic zones are in the engineering, architecture, design, and outsourcing sectors.

“We aim to have more investors from Saudi Arabia and widen our reach for industries unique only in the Middle East,” Ms. Plaza had said in a statement.

“Once the pandemic is over, we will invite our Saudi Arabian investors to visit the economic zones where they can locate their industries once they decide to invest in the Philippines.”

PEZA-approved investment pledges increased by almost 54% to P25.82 billion in the first quarter of 2021 after coming off a low base last year. The 57 projects could create more than 5,600 jobs, the agency said.

The bulk of the investments are in the export manufacturing and information technology sectors.