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Saudi minister Al Falih heads to Milan for trade talks

Khalid Al Falih, Saudi's investment minister, will also attend the Cernobbio economics forum on the trip to Italy Danil Shamkin/NurPhoto via Reuters
Khalid Al Falih, Saudi's investment minister, will also attend the Cernobbio economics forum in Italy
  • Investment minister to lead delegation
  • Italian-Saudi forum set for September 4
  • Bilateral trade topped $11bn in 2022

Saudi Arabian and Italian officials are to meet in Milan next week for talks on investment opportunities in clean energy, healthcare, manufacturing and hospitality.

The Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia will co-host the Italian-Saudi Investment Forum on September 4, as the countries seek to build on bilateral trade that surpassed $11 billion last year.

Khalid Al Falih, the kingdom’s minister of investment, will lead the delegation of government and business officials visiting Italy.

They will also take part in the Cernobbio Forum, an economics conference taking place near Lake Como from September 1 to 3.  

At the Cernobbio Forum, which is held behind closed doors, the Ministry of Investment will present investment opportunities available in Saudi Arabia under the Vision 2030 programme to diversify its economy.

The Italian-Saudi Investment Forum will be attended by Adolfo Urso, Italy’s minister of enterprise, and Giuseppe Sala, the mayor of Milan.

The talks were announced as Roberto Mancini, the former boss of the Italy football team, took his place as the new head coach of the Saudi Arabia national side.

Roberto Mancini poses with Yasser Al Misehal, president of the Saudi Arabia Football Federation, as he is unveiled as the national team's head coachSaudi Arabia Football Federation/Handout via Reuters
Roberto Mancini poses with Yasser Al Misehal, president of the Saudi Arabia Football Federation, at his unveiling in Riyadh

Mancini said in a press conference in Riyadh on Monday that his short-term aim is to win the Asian Cup, which begins in January in Qatar.

He added in a statement: “I am not a magician, we have exceptional talents and we can achieve our goals through continuous work.” 

Italian media has reported that Mancini’s contract is worth $27 million a year. His first game in charge will be a friendly against Costa Rica on September 8.

Italy and Saudi Arabia marked the 90th anniversary of diplomatic relations last year and around 160 Italian companies are estimated to be working on giga-projects in the kingdom. 

It was reported in July that Italy is in talks with sovereign wealth funds from Saudi Arabia, Norway and Singapore over $1 billion plans to develop a residential area of Milan.

Invimit, an asset management company run by the Italian treasury, is seeking investors for the regeneration of a 388,000 sq m site in the western suburbs of the city.

Invimit had set a deadline of July 24 for expressions of interest, but this has been extended until September.

Middle East wealth funds’ investments in Italy peaked in 2010 at $2.3 billion in deal value, according to the Sovereign Investment Lab at Bocconi University in Milan.

Over the past five years, Gulf funds have invested barely $1 billion in the country.

Italy’s statistics institute has reported that exports to countries across the Middle East were up 6 percent in the first quarter of 2023 compared to a year earlier.

Imports from the region fell by more than 13 percent, resulting in a negative trade balance of over $2.5 billion.

More Saudi Arabia-Italy deals
  • Italy’s Webuild (formerly Salini Impregilo) secured an estimated $2 billion contract in May to build a rail link between Oxagon and The Line at the Neom giga-project.
  • The kingdom’s Public Investment Fund purchased 33 percent of Italian yacht builder Azimut Benetti in April.
  • Italian hospitality company Arsenale is investing $75 million to develop the first luxury train for “rail cruising” across Saudi Arabia.