EXCLUSIVE: Softbank talks to contractors about $200bn Saudi solar venture

18 June 2018
Client has met with contractors to discuss first phase of 200GW programme

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment fund (PIF) and Japanese investment firm SoftBank have met with contractors to discuss participation in the first projects under their ambitious $200bn solar programme in the kingdom.

According to sources close to the programme, the client met with engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractors in May about possible participation in a tender for projects under the first phase of the programme.

A handful of international contractors from India and Europe were invited to meet the client to express interest in the programme to build and install photovoltaic (PV) solar projects, the source says.

The first wave of projects under the Softbank/PIF solar programme is likely to consist of six to eight PV plants, each with a capacity of 300MW. According to sources, the proposed first-round plants will be located near Sudair, 200km north of the kingdom’s capital city Riyadh.

While the client has met with contractors, it is believed they are still assessing the viability of the initial projects and there are no plans to award contracts imminently.

The preliminary agreement for the 200GW PIF/Softbank solar programme was signed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son in New York on 27 March.

Following the announcement, it was revealed that the PIF/Softbank venture was aiming to develop 7.2GW of solar energy in 2019, requiring $5bn of investment. Both sides would put up an initial $1bn for the first phase, with the rest to be secured through debt financing.

“It’s a huge step in human history,” said Mohammed bin Salman at a press briefing following the signing of the agreement. “It’s bold, risky and we hope we succeed.”

SoftBank is set to play a major part in Saudi Arabia’s economic reform programme, with the two sides planning to develop a $100bn technology investment fund. The initial agreements for the SoftBank Vision Fund were signed in October 2016.

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