RIYADH: A major investment show in Saudi Arabia is expected to attract thousands of delegates and see deals worth hundreds of billions of dollars — despite several largely “symbolic” last-minute cancelations by speakers.
The Future Investment Initiative, which starts on Tuesday, is tipped to see big investment partnerships from Russia and China, despite several executives, mostly Western, pulling out after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Many of those Western firms have however sent lower-level representatives or regional heads — with big business likely to be done, Saudi officials said.
Speakers from the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Russia-China Investment Fund and electronics giant Samsung are all billed to speak at the event. They join Saudi speakers including Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, head of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), and sports official Princess Reema bint Bandar.
“Investing in transformation,” “technology as opportunity” and “advancing human potential” are among the FII’s themes. Held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, the three-day event is billed as a “blueprint for the 22nd century.”
Ellen Wald, president of the Transversal Consulting think-tank and author of the recent book “Saudi Inc,” said many executives — notably those from Russia and further east — were still looking to do business at the event despite some having pulled out.
“I think the big pull-out of CEOs is not really reflective of the corporate interest in the Kingdom because we see them sending their next level of executives along. So to some degree it is symbolic,” she told Arab News. “In terms of attracting foreign investment, Saudi Arabia could have strategic leverage with Russia and China, and a unique opportunity to work on cutting-edge technologies.”
John Sfakianakis, director of economic research at the Gulf Research Center in Saudi Arabia, said he expected the event to be a success.
“The FII is a key event in showcasing Saudi Arabia’s investment opportunities and economy, and linking foreign and local businessmen,” he told Arab News.