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Saudi Aramco CEO on Khashoggi's death

Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser speaks with CNN's John Defterios at the Future Investment Initiative. Dozens of business leaders from around the world pulled out of the conference following the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Posted: Oct 24, 2018 8:41 AM
Updated: Oct 24, 2018 8:53 AM

The crown prince of Saudi Arabia is trying to salvage plans for a dramatic overhaul of his country's economy as top corporate leaders and investors distance themselves following the killing of a critical journalist.

Mohammed bin Salman is expected to make his case Wednesday at an investor conference in Saudi Arabia that was supposed to bring together many of the biggest names in global business.

The crown prince is scheduled to participate in a panel discussion expected at 5.30 pm local time (10.30 am ET) on how "visionary leadership" will "transform the Arab world into a global economic powerhouse." But he will be speaking to a crowd with much less financial power than originally planned.

Investors and corporate executives have distanced themselves from the crown prince after members of his inner circle were blamed for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia says the journalist was killed by rogue operatives during an interrogation gone wrong. Several US officials told CNN that any such operation could not have happened without bin Salman's direct knowledge.

SoftBank (SFTBF) founder Masayoshi Son, who has been give $45 billion of Saudi money to invest through his Vision Fund, has pulled out of the event. Other top executives, including the CEOs of JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Uber and Siemens (SIEGY), also canceled plans to attend.

The Future Investment Initiative conference, widely known as "Davos in the desert," was a way for the young prince to showcase his country as being "open for business" as it undergoes massive transformation to diversify the economy away from oil.

But the mood has been subdued this week in Riyadh despite Saudi Arabia announcing $50 billion worth of deals, mainly to develop its oil and chemicals industry.

Some companies have sent less senior executives. JPMorgan and HSBC (HSBC) are sending representatives, despite their CEOs pulling out, for example.

"We can't ignore Saudi Arabia," a senior executive for an international bank told CNN Business at the event.

Regional governments, including the United Arab Emirates, dispatched delegations to the event, and bin Salman is expected to share the stage on Wednesday with the crown prince of Bahrain and the prime minister of Lebanon.

"There is loyalty, but the loyalty is is well deserved," said Mahmood Alkooheji, CEO of Mumtalakat, Bahrain's sovereign wealth fund. "Our presence here in the forum is really to look at the investment opportunities."

As for international investors, he said they "need time."

Saudi Arabia urgently needs to reverse a decline in foreign investment to diversify its economy and end its dependence on oil. Under his Vision 2030 plan, bin Salman wants to grow the private sector, boost tourism and reduce unemployment over the next decade.

The plan caught the imagination of many international players, including billionaire Richard Branson, who jumped on opportunities for two tourism projects and was in talks for a $1 billion investment in his space company.

But Branson was one of the first to suspend his links with Saudi Arabia following Khashoggi's disappearance.

"What has reportedly happened in Turkey around the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi Government," Branson said earlier this month.

Last year, bin Salman used the conference to introduce a $500 billion futuristic mega-city sitting alongside some of the world's top executives, including Son. The young prince told the audience that the city, NEOM, would be a place for "dreamers."

The announcement received loud cheers and applause from the energized crowd.

But at least six of 18 NEOM's international advisers — including Silicon Valley stars such as Sam Altman — have backed out temporarily or permanently.

Now the prince will need to make an equally forceful argument for why investors should buy into his vision. And if it turns out he really did know about the operation against Khashoggi, the kingdom may be back to square one.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 308737

Reported Deaths: 7139
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20931250
Hinds19961410
Harrison17562303
Rankin13369277
Jackson13156243
Madison9950212
Lee9890170
Jones8310161
Forrest7542148
Lauderdale7221237
Lowndes6289144
Lamar613384
Lafayette6072117
Washington5291133
Bolivar4776129
Oktibbeha457197
Panola4458103
Pearl River4437141
Warren4299119
Marshall4286102
Pontotoc417572
Monroe4062132
Union404675
Neshoba4005176
Lincoln3886109
Hancock373385
Leflore3471124
Sunflower331589
Tate325384
Pike3215105
Scott311472
Yazoo305069
Alcorn299465
Itawamba297877
Copiah293965
Coahoma290479
Simpson289586
Tippah285168
Prentiss276659
Marion266279
Leake261773
Wayne261541
Grenada256484
Covington255280
Adams246982
Newton245761
George238547
Winston226081
Tishomingo222567
Jasper220048
Attala213673
Chickasaw205457
Holmes187172
Clay183254
Stone179733
Clarke177776
Tallahatchie176140
Calhoun165431
Yalobusha160136
Smith159334
Walthall131043
Greene129633
Lawrence126623
Noxubee126534
Montgomery125742
Perry125238
Carroll120926
Amite120741
Webster113832
Jefferson Davis105532
Tunica103225
Claiborne101330
Benton97525
Kemper95628
Humphreys94632
Franklin82923
Quitman78916
Choctaw73917
Wilkinson65128
Jefferson64828
Sharkey49817
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 521623

Reported Deaths: 10739
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson754061493
Mobile39067799
Madison34040496
Tuscaloosa25367444
Montgomery24019567
Shelby23186239
Baldwin20701302
Lee15589165
Calhoun14342311
Morgan14158271
Etowah13685346
Marshall11995220
Houston10404278
Elmore10011200
Limestone9852147
Cullman9503189
St. Clair9463234
Lauderdale9265228
DeKalb8757181
Talladega8115171
Walker7139275
Jackson6756110
Autauga6750103
Blount6519134
Colbert6229130
Coffee5424113
Dale4772111
Russell430038
Franklin420782
Chilton4101109
Covington4061114
Tallapoosa3907146
Escambia390174
Dallas3525149
Chambers3514122
Clarke347060
Marion3072100
Pike306176
Lawrence295995
Winston273172
Bibb256059
Marengo248361
Geneva246075
Pickens233259
Barbour226455
Hale218575
Butler212967
Fayette209460
Henry188044
Cherokee182644
Randolph177241
Monroe172540
Washington165238
Macon155648
Clay150155
Crenshaw149457
Cleburne146741
Lamar139734
Lowndes136553
Wilcox124427
Bullock121640
Conecuh109428
Perry107626
Sumter103232
Coosa99428
Greene91434
Choctaw58824
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