With roughly 8 percent GDP growth in 2021, Saudi was one of the fastest growing global economies. 2023 will be another fast growth year for Saudi Arabia, and this economic strength will result in incremental investments across technology, smart cities, football, and sports investment at home and abroad changing the global football game forever.
The huge petrodollar windfall deriving from the energy shock caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, comes as Riyadh is pushing ahead with its ambitious plan to diversify its economy and move away from oil and gas as envisioned in Vision 2030. The Saudi account balance registered a surplus of US$165bn (up from US$44bn in 2021), allowing the Kingdom to rebuild its international reserves to approximately $500 billion. Saudi Aramco, the Kingdom controlled oil company, and the largest oil company in the world, registered profit of USD 48.4 billion (up 90% from 2021) for the second quarter of 2022. Bloomberg reported that this was “the biggest quarterly adjusted profit of any listed company.”
A large portion of Saudi’s national wealth is managed by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the sixth largest global Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) with total assets of $ 620 billions. PIF is the engine behind the assertive investment diversification of Saudi Arabia, and it is expected to be managing $ 1 trillion dollars by 2026. PIF has committed to spend $40bn annually in the kingdom as it develops large scale projects across smart cities, sustainability, entertainment, and blue/green hydrogen.
As I have been arguing for quite some time, Saudi Arabia is becoming a more successful global investor deploying its energy revenues towards the diversification of its economy as envisioned in Vision 2030. This means that hundreds of billions of dollars are being invested in smart cities projects (Neon, Oxagon, and Qiddiya), in sports, tourism and technology. Just on the football front in 2022, Saudi Arabia spent over $2 billion dollars in 2022 to acquire teams, upgrade its infrastructure and position itself as a leading football promoter at home and internationally. Over the next five years, expect Saudi Arabia to become one of the biggest leaders in tech innovation, clean energy and the future of sports.