RIYADH, May 27 — Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) today launched the Neo Space Group to work on the kingdom’s nascent satellite and space industry, its first investment in the sector.

One of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds, the PIF has already invested heavily in sports, gaming and so-called Saudi giga-projects including Neom, a US$500-billion (RM2.3-trillion) futuristic megacity under construction in the desert.

The Neo Space Group or NSG is the “PIF’s first investment focused on the space industry”, the sovereign wealth fund said in a statement.

It “aims to develop and enhance commercial space operations in Saudi Arabia, providing innovative satellite and space solutions locally and globally”, the PIF said.

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It will also “invest in localisation, technology, start-ups, and knowledge in the space and satellite sector in Saudi Arabia” in the latest bid to boost economic diversification.

Under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler, Saudi Arabia has sought both to open up and diversify its oil-reliant economy.

From world-class footballers to a new national airline and even a speciality shop serving camel milk gelato, the PIF has splashed billions on acquisitions intended to support diversification.

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The fund has also made high-profile investments in foreign firms including stakes in Uber, electric car maker Lucid and video game company Activision Blizzard.

Domestic investments constitute the vast majority of its portfolio, however.

“The establishment of NSG marks an important milestone in the development of the growing satellite and space sector in Saudi Arabia,” said Omar Al-Madhi, PIF’s co-head of Mena Direct Investments.

Last year, Saudi Arabia sent its first two astronauts into space, including Rayyanah Barnawi, the kingdom’s first female astronaut. — AFP