SocGen Sees Saudi Arabia Opportunities After Mideast Expansion

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A man walks past palm trees lining the corniche promenade in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed said the central elements of his Vision 2030 plan, including the $100 billion Saudi Aramco sale and the effort to boost non-oil revenue, remain on course. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Societe Generale SA (SocGen) sees more opportunities in Saudi Arabia as the kingdom seeks to diversify its economy away from oil, the bank’s chief executive officer for the Middle East said.

“One of the major things is the launch of the renewable energy program which is a big thing for all the countries in the region and we will definitely be a part of that,” Richad Soundardjee said in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Monday. “Progress is there and transformation plans are started to being executed” across Gulf states.

Saudi Arabia is attracting the attention of the world’s biggest banks as it undergoes an economic transformation that includes raising debt through bond sales, creating the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund and selling stakes in government assets.

The kingdom is also overhauling its energy industry to stop burning oil and gas that are more profitable to export. It plans to build at least 16 nuclear reactors over the next 25 years, and is developing its first wind power plant and a 300-megawatt solar plant.

‘A Lot to Do’

“There is a lot to do in the energy sector, and we are a global energy house,” Soundardjee said. “There is a lot to do when it comes to structured financing and there is a lot to do in terms of providing intellectual capital and advisory.”

The French bank was among lenders that provided an $11 billion loan to the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund last year in the Public Investment Fund’s first-ever borrowing.

SocGen has “made progress deploying our financial capital into the kingdom and into the GCC, and also our intellectual capital,” Soundardjee said. The bank last year expanded with Middle East appointments across areas including structured finance, export finance and fixed income.

The bank also sees opportunities in other Middle Eastern countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Egypt, he said.