Ireland sees 'genuine interest' from GCC sovereign wealth funds to invest in renewables

Simon Coveney met with potential investors in the Gulf this week during visits to the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait

Ireland’s Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Employment Simon Coveney Minister of Economy Abdulla bin Touq. The Irish minister has met with potential investors in the Gulf this week. Photo: Ministry of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
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There is a real interest from sovereign wealth funds in the Gulf to invest in renewable energy projects and other sectors in Ireland, the country's Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has said.

“There is genuine interest and a real curiosity about the level of capital investment in Ireland and an interest in potentially partnering with Irish investment funds,” Simon Coveney, told The National, at the World Trade Organisation's 13th Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

“So we are looking to develop and encourage that.”

The minister's comments come after he visited the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait where he met with potential investors this week.

Ireland has a “very ambitious” economic development plan over the next 25 years that features decarbonisation, digitalisation and the diversification of companies and talent in the country, he said.

The government aims to install up to 37 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2050, representing a capital investment of €100 billion ($108 billion).

The wind power project is a “real opportunity for some of the investment funds in this part of the world to be diversifying their energy portfolios into renewable energy of the coast of Ireland,” the minister said.

“There are big opportunities for investment from this region in Ireland and Europe.”

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund was the top investor among global sovereign wealth funds last year as the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund continues to improve its investment portfolio, industry specialist Global SWF said in its annual report in January. The PIF spent $31.6 billion in 49 deals in 2023, up 33 per cent from 2022.

Together with the PIF, four other Gulf funds ranked among the top 10 most active deal makers last year – Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Mubadala Investment Company, ADQ and Qatar Investment Authority, the report said.

Mr Coveney, who is a former foreign minister, also highlighted opportunities for Irish companies to participate in the large-scale infrastructure projects in the Arab world's top two economies of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“We see real opportunity across this region, we have a lot of friends here and we have a lot of Irish people here,” the minister said, citing the 16,000 Irish expats living in Gulf countries.

“What we'd like to do now is build on that. The opportunities in the UAE and the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, those two countries in particular, we think is very significant in terms of the scale of projects that are being designed and delivered and we think Irish companies can be a big part of that.”

The total value of exports to the UAE from Ireland reached €643.8 million in 2022, up from €504.6 million in 2021, according to data from Ireland's embassy in Abu Dhabi. Over the past decade, Irish goods exports to the Arab world have increased by 68 per cent.

Resilient economy

Ireland's economy is forecast to grow 3.3 per cent in 2024, while inflation is expected to further ease to reach 2 per cent by late 2025, according to the International Monetary Fund.

“Ireland's economy has never been stronger, it has never been more resilient and we've never seen more foreign direct investment than we have today,” the minister said.

The country is home to about 2,000 multinationals who employ more than 300,000 people, according to the ministry.

Ireland's trade with the rest of the world in terms of goods and services coming in and out of the country reached a total value of $1 trillion a year ago for the first time, Mr Coveney said.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said that he is talking to some of the EU's 27 states about a possible joint recognition of a Palestinian state after the war in Gaza.

Ireland has been one of the most vocal EU countries on the Israel-Gaza conflict.

Asked if Ireland's position on the war has affected its relations with current or prospective trading partners, Mr Coveney said: “Ireland's trade relationship with other countries around the world has not been undermined.”

“Ireland's position is consistent, is fair and is based on both evidence and law. I think any country that will hold that against Ireland is in my view not responding fairly. We will continue to condemn breaches of international law on all sides by the way.”

Updated: February 29, 2024, 3:09 PM