DUBAI - Saudi Arabia, advised by the world's largest fund manager BlackRock, has launched a national infrastructure fund to support up to 200 billion riyals ($53 billion) in projects over the next decade, state news agency SPA said on Monday.

The National Infrastructure Fund (NIF) will invest in areas such as water, transportation, energy and health, contributing to Saudi Arabia's plans to transform the economy and make it less reliant on oil revenue.

The fund is one of the development funds of the National Development Fund (NDF), a body created in 2017 with the aim of supervising and linking together several economic development funds previously spread between various ministries and agencies.

NDF hired BlackRock to advise it on the establishment of the fund, "to implement international best practices in the management and governance of specialized financial institutions and funds", SPA said, citing Stephen Paul Groff, NDF's governor.

"The fund also aims to contribute to the development of the financial sector by finding alternative solutions to finance infrastructure projects and encourage the private sector to invest in these projects", SPA said.

The Public Investment Fund and NDF are at the centre of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's plans to diversify the Saudi economy and create jobs, with NDF tasked to mobilise private sector financing to support economic development.

BlackRock opened an office in Saudi Arabia in 2019 to capitalize on the government's reform agenda.

The infrastructure fund will use structured financing products, including debt, equity and guarantees, "to de-risk infrastructure investment opportunities for local and global investors", said Abdullah Abobakr, NIF project director.

"NIF will thus play a key role in broadening infrastructure investment opportunities and in deepening infrastructure capital markets in the kingdom", he said.

(Reporting by Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and David Holmes) ((; +971522604297; Reuters Messaging: