Saudi says it will offer series of privatization deals by March

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia will offer international investors the chance to invest in a raft of privatization deals from grains to healthcare and water desalination over the next six months, Economy Minister Mohammed al-Tuwaijri said on Thursday.

“From now until the first quarter of 2019 we have four opportunities in silos and grains,” Tuwaijri said, adding that deals in the education, healthcare and water desalinization sectors would also be offered in this period.

He did not give details of the deals, but said the government had received many expressions of interest from Asian and European companies.

Saudi officials include public-private partnerships to build and operate infrastructure as well as asset sales in their definition of privatization.

In an interview with Reuters last year, Tuwaijri estimated the privatization program could raise about $200 billion in coming years, in addition to $100 billion which authorities aimed to raise by selling a stake in oil giant Saudi Aramco.

Asked whether the $200 billion figure was still feasible, Tuwaijri said it depended on what assets the government selected, and that he was talking with various state bodies to see which assets they could monetize.

“The figures could vary, but also the market ultimately will decide,” he said.

Earlier this year, authorities shelved plans to conduct an initial public offer of Aramco shares but said the IPO would happen by early 2021. Tuwaijri repeated on Thursday that the company was ready for an IPO whenever the government chose to proceed.

Reporting by Marwa Rashad and Andrew Torchia; Editing by Jon Boyle