Saudi Arabia was set to sign deals worth $50 billion on Tuesday at the opening of an investment conference, top world bankers and company executives.
Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih told a panel that the world’s largest oil exporter was passing through a “crisis of a sort” but would power ahead with economic diversification plans. Speaking at the opening session, Saudi businesswoman Lubna Olayan described the killing of the dissident Saudi journalist which has sparked a global outcry and strained Riyadh’s ties with the West as “alien to our culture”.
“It is natural that our thoughts tend to focus on recent events surrounding the death of Jamal Khashoggi ... may he rest in peace,” she said.
Hundreds of bankers and company executives joined officials at a palatial Riyadh hotel for the Future Investment Initiative. But while last year’s inaugural conference drew the global business elite, this year’s event has been marred by the pullout of more than two dozen high-level speakers.
However, Saudi Arabia is set to sign deals worth more than $50 billion on the opening day in the oil, gas, industries and infrastructure sectors with firms such as Trafigura, Total, Hyundai, Norinco, Schlumberger, Halliburton and Baker Hughes.
Oil giant Saudi Aramco said it signed 15 memoranda of understandings worth $34 billion. Total Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanné, a panelist on Tuesday, said the French oil and gas producer would announce a retail network in the kingdom with Saudi Aramco.
Russia sent a large delegation led by Direct Investment Fund head Kirill Dmitriev, who said Saudi Arabia’s economic transformation was “important for the world” and that partnerships between sovereign wealth funds was a “great opportunity”.
The managing director of the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, the main backer of the event, said the country was becoming more transparent and that the Saudi Public Investment Fund continued to develop new industries under economic reforms launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Yasir al-Rumayyan said the fund has invested in 50 or 60 firms via SoftBank Group’s Vision Fund and would bring most of those businesses to the kingdom. PIF has committed to invest $45 billion in Vision Fund.