World Economy

S. Arabia to Sell State Firms

S. Arabia to Sell State FirmsS. Arabia to Sell State Firms

Saudi officials are considering plans to sell shares in state-owned entities and companies, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions, as the country seeks to bolster revenue to counter the plunge in oil prices.

The government may sell stakes in ports, railways, utilities and airports, the two people said. State-owned hospitals may also be privatized as part of deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman’s, plans to reduce the country’s reliance on oil revenue, one person said. Saudi officials weren’t immediately available for comment, Arabian Business reported.

The world’s biggest oil exporter is trying to tap additional sources of revenue after crude prices declined about 35% this year. The kingdom, which relies on oil for at least 80% of its revenue, is on course to post a budget deficit equal to 20% of economic output this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Rather than draw down further on its foreign-currency reserves, Saudi Arabia is expected to cut spending when it unveils its budget this month. The government this year issued bonds for the first time since 2007, and has raised fees for international air travel passengers.

The country’s Economic and Development Affairs Council, headed by the prince, held meetings last week with 350 officials to discuss plans to strengthen the economy and improve the government’s transparency and accountability, al-Watan newspaper reported on Thursday. Mohammed is King Salman’s son.