Saudi Arabia could open sovereign wealth fund office in India’s GIFT City

By Nidhi Verma and Shivangi Acharya

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -Saudi Arabia could set up an office of its sovereign wealth fund in India’s Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT), its investment minister said in New Delhi on Monday.

GIFT City is India’s tax-neutral financial services centre and a key project for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with the aim of rivalling financial services centres in Dubai and Hong Kong.

“I will match your offer and commit today to open an office,” Saudi Investment Minister Khalid Al Falih said after India’s trade minister Piyush Goyal invited Saudi Arabia to set up an office of its sovereign wealth fund, Public Investment Fund (PIF), in GIFT City.

Falih was in Delhi as part of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s state visit.

Goyal also said he would suggest that his ministry starts an investment promotion office in Riyadh.

During the Crown Prince’s visit India and Saudi Arabia signed 50 initial pacts in various fields and agreed to form a joint task force for $100 billion in Saudi investment in India, originally announced by the Crown Prince in 2019.

There is no timeline for the $100 billion investment in India but Falih said on Monday that projects previously announced are “still possible”. Half of the planned $100 billion is earmarked for a delayed refinery project along India’s western coast, an Indian foreign ministry official said.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in 2018 joined an Indian consortium to set up a 1.2 million barrels-per-day coastal refinery and petrochemical plant in western Maharashtra, seeking a reliable outlet for their oil.

Falih said India has to resolve issues including land acquisition for the planned refinery project.

He said Saudi Arabia is looking to invest in sectors including oil, gas, petrochemicals, new energy, technology, manufacturing and defence.

Saudi oil giant Saudi Aramco is looking to convert 4 million barrels per day of oil into advanced green materials through local and global projects and India could be part of that, Falih said.

(Reporting by Shivangi Acharya and Nidhi Verma, writing by Blassy Boben, editing by Ed Osmond and Susan Fenton)