Gulf sovereign funds more active than at any other time in 15 years

Deal activity by sovereign wealth funds reinforces the Gulf as a new center of gravity for those seeking large check sizes, according to Global SWF

The ADIA building on the Corniche in the UAE's capital. (ANDREW HOLBROOKE/GETTY)

Gulf sovereign wealth funds continue to cast a large shadow on the global investment landscape, more active than at any other time in the last 15 years. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and the Qatar Investment Authority made up over half of the $96 billion from state-controlled deals in the first half of 2024, according to a new report from Global SWF.

The U.S. research firm’s first-half analysis of the year reinforces the role of the Gulf — home to over $4 trillion in assets under management — as a new center of gravity for those seeking large check sizes, attracting some of the biggest players in tech, private equity and banking. 

The salad days may continue as the latest breakeven prices forecast by the IMF show that Qatar, the UAE, Oman and Kuwait may enjoy fiscal windfalls this year. Global market uncertainty has meant the Gulf is one of the few places in the world enjoying a bumper year –with public equities reaching all-time highs and the price of still-all-important oil hovering at a healthy $83 a barrel. 

“While the market uncertainty has invited global funds to be cautious, Gulf-based and particularly, Abu Dhabi-based funds, have received significant windfall from oil and are more active than ever,” the Global SWF report says. Saudi Arabia, with its massive outlays for domestic projects under Vision 2030, and Bahrain, a smaller petro-state, may bear significant deficits, according to the IMF. 

Assets under management are at historical highs once again, well beyond the 2021 year-end figures, Global SWF found. For the first time, total assets under management of sovereign wealth funds globally has passed $12 trillion. Still overall, the investment activity of the first half of 2024 signals caution. SWFs deployed $64.2 billion in 135 deals. “Investments are fewer, but larger on average, and the overall average size of [$410 million] per deal is the largest we have seen in many years,” Global SWF said.