Sovereign fund joins Saudi entertainments drive

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RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund said on Wednesday it planned to set up a company to invest in the entertainment sector, which the kingdom is keen to develop as part of economic and social reforms.

The vehicle will have initial capital of 10 billion riyals ($2.67 billion) and is intended to contribute around 8 billion riyals per year to economic activity by 2030, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) said.

It did not specify when the firm would start to operate but said investments would involve an entertainment complex to launch by 2019.

As part of plans to open up Saudis’ cloistered lifestyles, authorities announced in April a 334 sq km “entertainment city” would be built south of Riyadh featuring sports, cultural and recreational facilities including a safari park.

The changes are also intended to capture up to a quarter of the $20 billion currently spent overseas by Saudis, who are accustomed to traveling abroad to see shows and visit amusement parks in nearby tourist hub Dubai or further afield.

“The company will seek to localize the large amount of spending on entertainment outside the Kingdom, in addition to promoting the entertainment sector’s role in diversifying revenue streams,” the PIF said.

It will also seek to attract strategic partnerships.

Last month, the government said it plans to develop resorts on about 50 islands off the kingdom’s Red Sea coast backed by the PIF.

The chairman of the General Entertainment Authority told Reuters in April that cinemas would one day return to Saudi Arabia after the clerical establishment persuaded the authorities to close them in the 1970s.
Source - Reuters.

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