Saudi PIF boosts trading team to back opportunistic buying strategy



By Saeed Azhar and Davide Barbuscia

DUBAI, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's main sovereign wealth fund has boosted its trading team to pursue further an aggressive strategy that saw it sell more than a dozen global stocks for short-term profit in the second quarter of 2020.

The more than $300 billion Public Investment Fund (PIF) has built a small team of traders to execute its trading strategy who report to its head of international investments, Turqi al-Nowaiser, two sources familiar with the matter said.

Last month, PIF hired Maziar Alamouti, a former head of trading at advisory and wealth management firm Quilter Investors, two sources told Reuters.

Alamouti is part of the Public Markets team, which is responsible for further building out the PIF's trading capabilities, one of the sources said.

The PIF did not immediately provide a comment.

"The market dislocation in H1 has clearly resulted in emerging opportunities; the Q2 filings demonstrate a continuation of this opportunistic equity strategy," said a source familiar with the fund's investments.

A second source said the head of the PIF, Yasir al-Rumayyan, and few of his direct reports are making decisions on international equity investments.

PIF's trading strategy differs from those of other sovereign wealth funds, which typically maintain their holdings in listed equities to garner long-term returns through dividends and capital gains.

After pouring $7.7 billion into global stocks such as Citigroup C.N , Facebook FB.O and oil firm Total TOTF.PA in the first quarter, the PIF shed these holdings in the second quarter and invested $4.7 billion into exchange-traded funds.

"PIF sold its entire shareholdings in 13 companies that it purchased in March as it took advantage of higher prices during Q2. Suggests that it is taking an opportunistic 'trading', rather than a traditional strategic 'buy-and-hold' approach of other SWFs," said Tarek Fadlallah of Nomura Asset Management Middle East.

Since becoming a more active investor in 2015, PIF has made some bold steps to raise its profile on the global stage. It took a $3.5 billion stake in Uber Technologies UBER.N and invested $45 billion in Softbank's inaugural technology fund.

A senior Gulf banker said executives at the fund have been participating in equity analysts' calls and using global brokers to execute these trades.

"They are speaking to every equity analyst at top notch banks. They listen in to the (analyst) calls," the banker said.
Reporting by Saeed Azhar and Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Catherine Evans

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