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UPDATE 1-Saudi sovereign wealth fund boosts U.S. equities exposure to nearly $12.8 bln

(Adds detail on Uber, background)

DUBAI, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has increased its holding of U.S. stocks to nearly $12.8 billion in the fourth quarter from $7 billion in the third quarter, according to a U.S. regulatory filing on Tuesday.

The Public Investment Fund (PIF) took new bets in the last quarter, buying a $1.07 billion stake in Electronic Arts Inc and a $1.4 billion stake in Activision Blizzard, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

In the third quarter, the PIF had cut its exposure to North American equities by $3 billion, offloading some exchange traded funds (ETF) and stocks including Berkshire Hathaway.

At the start of 2020 the sovereign wealth fund bulked up minority stakes in companies worldwide, including oil companies, taking advantage of market weakness caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saudi Arabia transferred a total of $40 billion from central bank foreign reserves to fund investments by sovereign wealth fund PIF in March and April last year.

The latest filing showed the value of its biggest U.S. stock holding, Uber Technologies, rose to $3.7 billion in the fourth quarter, from $2.66 billion in the third quarter after the ride-hailing firm’s shares soared nearly 40% quarter-on-quarter.

The Saudi sovereign wealth fund was an early investor in Uber, taking a $3.5 billion stake in 2016, three years before the company’s listing in 2019.

PIF, which manages $400 billion in assets, plans to double its assets to 4 trillion riyals ($1.07 trillion) by 2025, in a move that would make it one of the world’s biggest sovereign wealth funds.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has long pushed the PIF as a central plank in his plan to find ways of driving growth while weaning the economy off its dependence on oil. (Reporting by Saeed Azhar; additional reporting by Karina Dsouza in Bengaluru; editing by Grant McCool)

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