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Saudi Arabia to invest $10B in Russia

Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund is to invest up to $10 billion in Russia over the next five years, in a move signalling a thawing in relations between the two countries.

Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), the country's sovereign wealth investment vehicle, agreed on Monday to invest $10 billion over the next five years approximately in the Russia Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), a government-run investment fund.

Speaking to CNBC on Tuesday, RDIF's Chief Executive Kirill Dmitriev said that he thought the investment would be "very important" for Russia.

"The first seven projects have received preliminary approval, and RDIF expects to close 10 deals before the end of the year," Dmitriev said when announcing the deal which is the largest foreign direct investment in the country in the last four years.

"This deal is about building an important partnership. Russia needs to be an integrated global player. We are also going to invest in Saudi Arabia, which is a very attractive market for us so the deal is very interesting," he told CNBC.

RDIF also announced it had also signed a partnership agreement with another Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund, the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA).

"The parties will identify attractive joint investment opportunities in the SA and the Middle East," RDIF said.

Asked whether Russia was looking more towards the Middle East and Asia, with whom RDIF also has investment partnerships, Dmitriev reiterated that RDIF had joint investment funds with France and Italy already.

RDIF said the funds from Saudi Arabia would be invested in areas including infrastructure and agriculture, as well as healthcare, retail and real estate.

Russian President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed his support for Assad in June, making Saudi's investment one that could be politically motivated to rebuild relations and get Russia on side over how to end a four-year civil war in Syria. Dmitriev refused to comment on Russia's political background, however.

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President of Russia Vladimir Putin and Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia talk during a plenary session at the G20 leaders summit in Brisbane November 15, 2014.
Reuters
President of Russia Vladimir Putin and Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia talk during a plenary session at the G20 leaders summit in Brisbane November 15, 2014.

Russia could certainly do with friends at the moment. Its economy is expected to enter recession this year after a combination of lower oil prices – half the price they were last June – and western economic sanctions for the country's role in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea last year.

RDIF said the agreement was "greatly contributed" to by the visit of Saudi Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud (also the country's Deputy Crown Prince) during the St. Petersburg international Economic Forum (SPIEF) in June. Saud met with President Putin during the international business conference too, RDIF said.

RDIF has attracted over $25 billion of foreign capital into the Russian economy through long-term strategic partnerships with leading sovereign and investment funds of the world, it said, entering into investment partnerships with China, India, Kuwait and Japan, among others.

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- By CNBC's Holly Ellyatt, follow her on Twitter @HollyEllyatt. Follow us on Twitter: @CNBCWorld