Riyadh: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund became the largest outside shareholder of Nintendo Co. on Friday, underlining its commitment to diversifying a heavily oil-dependent economy.
The fund now owns 8.3 per cent of the Kyoto-based company, according to its latest filing, building up a position that stood just above 6 per cent at the start of the year. That puts PIF ahead of Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund and behind only Nintendo’s own holding.
Under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia is making a concerted push to break into the games and esports industry, most notably setting up Savvy Games Group under the PIF umbrella with a $38 billion budget and longtime industry veterans in charge. Savvy this week revealed its first foray into China’s games sector with a $260 million investment in a Tencent Holdings Ltd.-backed competitive gaming organizer.
The latest Nintendo stake purchase was made for investment purposes, the filing said. A Nintendo representative said the company doesn’t comment on specific shareholders and PIF didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The Nintendo purchase, as well as investments in game companies around the world, is part of Saudi Arabia’s long-term project to become less reliant on oil,” said Akira Takatoriya, a consultant who works with Japanese companies exporting pop culture content to the Middle East.
Nintendo marked PIF’s third investment in a Japanese games company in May, following share purchases in Nexon and Street Fighter makers Capcom earlier last year. It added to a growing portfolio that includes Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Take-Two Interactive Software and Koei Tecmo Holdings, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
“I think PIF is not even done and wouldn’t be surprised if it continues to increase its stake in Nintendo going forward,” Tokyo-based industry consultant Serkan Toto said.