Saudi Arabia has decided to cancel a decision to privatise its main water desalination company and transfer it to the government sovereign wealth fund (SWF). 

The Saudi cabinet, which held its weekly meeting on Monday, decided that all the assets of the Saline Water Conversion Corp (SWCC), the world’s largest producer of desalinated seawater, will be transferred to the Public Investment Fund (PIF). 

“The cabinet decided to cancel a previous decision on the privatisation of the Corporation and to transfer all its direct and indirect assets to the PIF or any of its companies,” the official Saudi Press Agency said. 

The Council of Ministers had approved the privatisation of SWCC in September 2019.

SPA gave no reason for the move, which coincided with a drive by the world’s largest oil exporter to privatise key state enterprises as part of its economic diversification scheme known as “Vision 2030.” 

The decision to let the Corporation to be controlled by PIF, one of the world’s largest SWF with estimated assets of around $620 billion, came as the arid desert Gulf Kingdom is pushing ahead with major projects to boost its desalinated water production, currently estimated at 9 million cubic metres per day (m3/day). 

The Corporation alone produces around 6 million m3/day and existing new projects and expansions will lift output to nearly 7.3 million m3/day. 

Saudi officials said recently there are plans to invest at least $9.3 billion in about 60 new desalination projects to boost output to more than 14 million m3/day in 2025. 

In July 2021, Saudi Arabia had suspended the privatisation of SWCC’s Ras Al Khair desalination and power plant.

(Writing by Nadim Kawach; Editing by Anoop Menon)