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French bank SocGen to boost presence in Saudi Arabia - CEO

French bank SocGen to boost presence in Saudi Arabia - CEO
SocGen seeks to launch a renewable energy programme in Saudi Arabia

Riyadh — Mubasher: Societe Generale SA (SocGen) is looking to gobble up further opportunities in Saudi Arabia as the GCC nation is at pains to wean its economy off petrodollars, according to the French the bank’s chief executive officer for the Middle East.

France’s third-largest listed bank seeks to launch a renewable energy programme in the oil-rich kingdom as renewables are “a big thing” for all nations in the region, Richad Soundardjee told Bloomberg TV on Monday.

“Progress is there and transformation plans are started to being executed” across the GCC states, he added.

Saudi Arabia is attracting SocGen’s attention as the nation with the biggest Middle Eastern economy undergoes an economic transformation that includes selling debt notes, creating the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund and selling stakes in state-run firms.

The kingdom is also remodeling its energy industry in a bid to stop burning oil and gas that are more profitable to export, Bloomberg said.

To this end, Saudi Arabia plans to set up at least 16 nuclear reactors over the next 25 years, along with developing its first wind power plant and a 300-megawatt solar plant.

“There is a lot to do in the energy sector, and we are a global energy house..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,” Soundardjee said.

SocGen was among banks that secured an $11 billion loan to the kingdom’s sovereign investor Public Investment Fund (PIF) in 2018, which marked its first-ever borrowing.

Soundardjee noted that the French lender has made progress concerning deploying financial capital into the kingdom and its GCC neighbours.

Over the course of the previous year, SocGen stepped up 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 UAE, Kuwait and Egypt, the CEO added.