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Riyadh announces ambitious $500bn investment zone with Jordan, Egypt

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the plan in a rare public address [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 25 October, 2017

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Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has announced the biggest plan yet to emerge from Riyadh's drive to restructure its economy.

Saudi Arabia plans to create a $500 billion business and industrial zone that will stretch across the kingdom's borders into Jordan and Egypt, Riyadh announced on Tuesday.

The plan is the biggest yet to emerge from Riyadh as part of its effort to decrease the Saudi economy's dependence on oil exports.

The 'NEOM' zone, which will measure 26,500 square km (10,230 square miles), will be dedicated to several industries, incuding biotechnology, water, food, energy, water and entertainment, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in a rare public address.

Holding two phones in his hands - one an older model and the other a recent smartphone - the prince said that the two devices represented the contrast between what is planned for NEOM and any other area of its kind already in existence.

"This project is not a place for any conventional investor... This is a place for dreamers who want to do something in the world," he said.

The zone is planned to be self-powered with solar and wing energy and will be funded by the Saudi government, the country's Public Investment Fund (PIF) and a number of local and international investors.

Together, it is hoped to pour over half a trillion dollars into the project in coming years, the crown prince said.

Prince Mohammed has spearheaded Saudi Arabia's ambitious drive to reorganise its economy and modernise, however, critics argue that the prince's plans are unrealistic.

Riyadh hopes to raise $100 billion in an international IPO for a five percent stake in state-owned oil giant Aramco as part of the new economic plan. Analysts, however, have disputed the Saudi valuation and said that the shares may go for far lower.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia's state-owned electricity company said that the government is considering selling a considerable stake to the SoftBank Vision Fund, the world's largest private equity fund.

Privatisation efforts aimed at raising funds, however, have been criticised by many within Saudi Arabia who believe that Riyadh is selling shares cheaply to counteract falling oil prices.

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