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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: 154411

Reported Deaths: 3836
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10409104
Hinds10279202
Harrison7313112
Jackson6566128
Rankin5887106
Lee529496
Madison5014107
Forrest389786
Jones369088
Lauderdale3594147
Lafayette338253
Washington3246108
Lamar297850
Oktibbeha252362
Lowndes247064
Bolivar244384
Panola232653
Neshoba2249121
Marshall222851
Leflore208591
Monroe206778
Pontotoc204231
Lincoln197366
Sunflower192655
Warren180258
Tate177751
Union171926
Copiah167940
Pike165359
Yazoo160140
Scott159430
Itawamba157635
Alcorn155628
Pearl River155368
Coahoma152743
Simpson152653
Prentiss151331
Adams144752
Grenada143345
Leake139744
Holmes133461
Covington128639
Tippah128430
George128325
Winston125526
Hancock124341
Wayne121323
Marion119446
Attala119334
Tishomingo112443
Chickasaw109432
Newton108229
Tallahatchie98127
Clay94727
Clarke93653
Jasper85223
Stone80615
Calhoun78713
Walthall77629
Montgomery76926
Carroll74115
Lawrence73814
Smith73216
Yalobusha73128
Noxubee72717
Perry68326
Tunica62619
Greene61522
Jefferson Davis59017
Claiborne58916
Amite56615
Humphreys54719
Benton50018
Quitman5007
Webster46714
Kemper45018
Wilkinson40522
Jefferson37112
Choctaw3617
Franklin3555
Sharkey32417
Issaquena1204
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 252900

Reported Deaths: 3638
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson33526501
Mobile20103365
Madison13723151
Tuscaloosa13366154
Montgomery12552236
Shelby1079677
Baldwin9051137
Lee787266
Morgan696451
Calhoun6598121
Etowah656167
Marshall647357
Houston541038
DeKalb498137
Cullman462443
St. Clair441956
Limestone440445
Lauderdale426754
Elmore421164
Walker3735111
Talladega370157
Jackson340423
Colbert332042
Blount306140
Autauga281842
Franklin257434
Coffee250015
Dale239054
Dallas231532
Chilton228939
Russell22663
Covington225034
Escambia202331
Tallapoosa187291
Chambers182750
Pike161514
Clarke161019
Marion144736
Winston137523
Lawrence133436
Pickens126518
Geneva12508
Marengo123424
Bibb120418
Barbour118911
Butler118642
Randolph105522
Cherokee105124
Hale98131
Fayette94616
Washington93219
Clay92824
Henry8896
Monroe83011
Lowndes80929
Cleburne78814
Macon75522
Crenshaw72230
Bullock70119
Lamar7018
Conecuh70014
Perry6916
Wilcox64818
Sumter58622
Greene43518
Choctaw43114
Coosa3664
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