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Saudi wealth fund said to weigh US$8b bid for financial hub

[DUBAI] Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund is likely to make an offer next month to buy Riyadh's unfinished financial hub as the government attempts to rehabilitate a project plagued by delays and cost overruns.

The fund may pay about 30 billion riyals (S$10.95 billion) - the amount already spent on the King Abdullah Financial District by the kingdom's Public Pension Agency - plus the cost of undeveloped plots, a person with knowledge of the plan said, asking not to be identified as discussions are private. The plan includes a new company to oversee the project's completion and management.

The financial hub, which is about 70 per cent built and due for completion in 2017, has suffered a series of setbacks. Its main contractor, the Saudi Bin Ladin Group, has stopped working on the project, while little space has been taken up in the 73 buildings being constructed.

Various plans are under consideration, while the project's pricing structure may change, the person said. A spokesman for the hub's developer Al Ra'idah declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the Public Investment Fund.

Saudi Arabia wants to make the PIF the world's largest sovereign wealth fund, with more than US$2 trillion of assets including ownership of state-oil company Saudi Aramco. That would make it big enough to buy Apple Inc, Google parent Alphabet Inc, Microsoft Corp and Berkshire Hathaway Inc.