The United States Treasury Department has said that Saudi Arabia held $116.8bn in US debt at the end of March, having revealed the kingdom’s holdings for the first time.
The department confirmed the figure after Bloomberg first reported the total – an amount which makes Saudi Arabia one of the largest foreign nation holders of American debt, behind countries including China and Japan which both had more than $1 trillion in securities at the end of March.
The Treasury disclosed Saudi Arabia’s holdings for the first time since it started announcing foreign debt holdings in 1974. It previously grouped the kingdom together with 14 other nations – most from OPEC – including the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Nigeria.
Bloomberg’s figures, however, suggest that Saudi Arabia’s holdings could be significantly larger than officially listed. It reported that the kingdom has about $587bn in foreign reserves, with central banks often putting about two-thrids of their coffers in dollars, according to International Monetary Fund data.
Earlier this year the Saudi government threatened to start selling off $750bn in US securities if Congress passed a law allowing the kingdom to be held responsible in US courts for any role it may have played in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. A Treasury spokesperson said the decision to make Saudi Arabia’s holdings public was not connected to those threats.