October 24, 2018 / 7:36 PM / 10 months ago

GEMS education venture may invest $800 mln in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Middle East-focused education company GEMS and a Saudi Arabian state investment firm agreed to invest up to $800 million over the next 10 years to develop a network of schools across the kingdom, the government said on Wednesday.

GEMS, majority-owned by Dubai-based Varkey Group and backed by Blackstone, signed a memorandum of understanding to form the partnership with Hassana Investment Co, an asset management arm of Saudi Arabia’s General Organization for Social Insurance.

The network will accommodate up to 130,000 students and create jobs for 16,000 people, of which approximately 40 percent will be Saudi citizens, the government said. The partnership would both build new schools and upgrade existing ones.

The plan, announced at an international business conference in Riyadh, is an example of how Saudi authorities are seeking to raise low levels of foreign investment in the economy by using deep-pocketed state funds to bring in partners from overseas.

Earlier, London-listed NMC Health said it had signed an agreement with Hassana Investment to develop a network of healthcare facilities across Saudi Arabia.

The memorandum of understanding targets total investment of 6 billion riyals ($1.6 billion) and employment of up to 10,000 staff over the next five years, NMC said. (Reporting by Andrew Torchia; Editing by Alison Williams)

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