Saudi wealth fund's Savvy Games Group to invest $37.8 billion

Sept 29 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's Savvy Games Group, owned by sovereign wealth fund PIF, will invest 142 billion riyals ($37.8 billion) in initiatives aimed at making the kingdom a global hub for gaming, state news agency SPA said on Thursday.

The investments will include 70 billion riyals to take several minority stakes in companies that support Savvy's game development agenda and 50 billion riyals to acquire "a leading game publisher to become a strategic development partner".

Another 20 billion riyals will be invested in mature industry partners who bring expertise to Savvy's portfolio and 2 billion riyals will target industry disruptors "to grow early-stage games and esports companies."

"Savvy Games Group is one part of our ambitious strategy aiming to make Saudi Arabia the ultimate global hub for the games and esports sector by 2030," Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said, according to SPA.

"We are harnessing the untapped potential across the esports and games sector to diversify our economy, drive innovation in the sector and further scale the entertainment and esports competition offerings across the Kingdom."

The company's strategy is to invest in the electronic games industry and esports over a long timeline, including local and international programmes and infrastructure.

It aims to set up 250 games companies in Saudi Arabia, which will create 39,000 jobs, and raise the sector's contribution to Saudi GDP to 50 billion riyals by 2030, SPA added.

Savvy's CEO Brian Ward was formerly head of worldwide studios at Activision Blizzard, in which PIF owns a nearly 5% stake. It has five independent subsidiaries, including esports arm EFG, as well as Nine66, which "is building an ecosystem for game developers and studios", and VOV company, which is building gaming and competition venues.

($1 = 3.7580 riyals)

Reporting by Ahmed Tolba and Enas Alashray in Cairo; writing by Yousef Saba in Dubai; editing by David Evans, Alexandra Hudson

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