ROME - Italy's right-wing government is urging Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund to invest in a new fund Rome is setting up to support domestic firms operating in strategically important sectors, Industry Minister Adolfo Urso said on Thursday.
After a video call with Saudi Arabia's Investment Minister Khalid al-Falih, Urso said in a statement that the oil-rich country was ready for further investments in Italy.
"al-Falih said he was willing to facilitate a reciprocal exchange of visits, both at government and business level, and stressed that the Saudi Arabian Sovereign Wealth Fund was ready to invest further in Italy," Urso said.
Reuters has sought a comment from Saudi Arabia's embassy in Rome.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's administration plans to set up a fund to invest in "high-potential national enterprises" through financial vehicles or investment funds run by state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), under a bill seen by Reuters.
The scheme is expected to be approved by the cabinet next week, officials said.
The fund would invest in firms operating in "national strategic supply chains", including energy and procurement of raw materials, the bill says.
Rome will operate "on market terms" to avoid breaching European Union rules limiting state aid rules, it adds.
To launch the fund, the Treasury could earmark up to 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) to be disbursed in several tranches.
Urso said he discussed with al-Falih projects focused on hydrogen energy on which Saudi Arabia was already intensively working.
The Italian minister also proposed "greater synergies" between the two countries in Africa.
A delegation of Saudi Arabian companies led by al-Falih is expected to visit Italy in September, the statement added.
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(Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte Editing by Alvise Armellini and Mark Potter)