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Education in the good books as Saudi Arabia boosts infra

Jeddah-based Alkhabeer has acquired a six-building educational complex, as the country’s Vision 2030 plan means investment opportunities are starting to emerge.

Alkhabeer Capital has bought a majority stake in the Rihab Al-Maarifa Company, a Riyadh-based pre-college education provider, in a move that highlights private investors’ hopes that Saudi Arabia’s economic overhaul will result in a social infrastructure boost.

The Saudi alternatives asset manager, which had 4 billion riyals ($1.1 billion; €1 billion) under management at the end of last year, believes education will be a “key focus” following the launch of the country’s Vision 2030 plan, which aims to strengthen sectors ranging from tourism to renewables.

Rihab Al-Maarifa runs a six-building educational facility located in the Al-Yarmouk district of Riyadh, the Saudi capital. The complex comprises conference venues, laboratories and a purpose-built stadium. It can accommodate more than 5,000 students, according to Alkhabeer.

“Saudi Arabia’s education market is the largest in the Arabian Gulf region, and our private equity team is committed to seizing opportunities that offer significant upside potential,” said Ahmed Saud Ghouth, the firm’s chief executive. “Our goals are in line with our government’s vision to provide Saudi children with a high-quality and multi-faceted education, while also helps achieving sustainable returns.”

Education features prominently in the reform programme put forward by King Salman earlier this year. “We will not rest until our nation is a leader in providing opportunities for all through education and training, and high quality services such as employment initiatives, health, housing, and entertainment,” says an English version of Vision 2030 available online.

The reforms are aimed at reducing youth unemployment, a growing headache for the Saudi government at a time when oil prices make it harder for the state to provide for the jobless. Nearly 45 percent of the country’s 28 million population is under 14, according to the CIA World Factbook, and many are said to leave school unprepared for work.