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BlackRock on Hunt for Gulf Infrastructure Deals

DUBAI, March 30 (Reuters) - BlackRock Inc the world's biggest money manager, is seeking more infrastructure deals in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region and is also looking to invest in private companies in the region, an executive said.

The U.S. group, which manages more than $10 trillion in assets, recently led a consortium purchase of a $15.5 billion stake in Saudi Aramco's gas pipelines company, having taken a stake in Abu Dhabi energy company ADNOC's pipeline assets a couple of years earlier.

"We're looking at many of those types of opportunities," Stephen Cohen, head of BlackRock's Europe, Middle East and Africa division, told Reuters.

"We're looking at a number of things on the private market side across the country," he said, citing unlisted growth companies in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the region.

Cohen said BlackRock is also looking across the region for infrastructure investments and what he called "transition finance" to fund long-term sustainable energy projects that help to reduce carbon emissions.

Gulf oil producers are considering sales of stakes in energy assets and raising cash through long-term leases, capitalising on a rebound in crude oil prices to attract foreign investors


When asked about the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, he said Europe's move to diversify its energy sources "naturally plays" to the strength of the Gulf region.

Prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the exposure to Russia in its clients' portfolios was less than 0.2% of BlackRock's assets under management, Cohen said.

A BlackRock spokesman said in an email on Wednesday that the exposure to Russia of its clients is less than 0.01% following a markdown in the value of those assets.

"Following the invasion, BlackRock moved quickly to suspend the purchase of any Russian securities. BlackRock is monitoring the direct and indirect impacts of the crisis and working with our clients to support them as they take appropriate investment action," Cohen said.

He said the company is also looking at expanding its team in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It currently has 44 employees in the UAE and 15 in Saudi Arabia, BlackRock says.

BlackRock has launched two Saudi Arabia-focused exchange-traded funds and recently advised the kingdom to launch a national infrastructure fund.

Reporting by Saeed Azhar Editing by David Goodman

Source: Reuters

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