The $500 billion mega-city planned by Saudi Arabia will be floated on financial markets alongside oil giant Saudi Aramco as part of the kingdom’s drive to diversify away from oil, the crown prince told Reuters in an interview late on Wednesday.
The 26,500-square km (10,230-square mile) business and industrial zone, named NEOM, will extend into Jordan and Egypt. It was unveiled on Tuesday at a three-day international investment conference.
The surprise announcement is the latest – and most extraordinary – in a slate of privatisation programmes led by the floating of oil giant Saudi Aramco. The sales are designed to boost the Saudi economy and create jobs for millions of young people.
“The first capitalist city in the world … this is the unique thing that will be revolutionary,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said.
“Without a doubt, at the end of the day NEOM will be floated in the markets. The first zone floated in the public markets. It’s as if you float the city of New York.”
Prince Mohammed also said the Saudi Aramco IPO was on track for next year, dismissing reports of delays, adding it could be valued at more than $2 trillion.
The 32-year-old spoke on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative conference, which has attracted nearly 4,000 delegates from around the world to Riyadh this week.
Switching between English and Arabic, sometimes in the same sentence, the prince seemed most excited discussing his plans for the new city.