Thursday 22, March 2018 by Jessica Combes

Saudi grand tour to include Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan


Senior Saudi officials touring the US to drum up business will visit investment banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp., Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan told Bloomberg.

“There are opportunities being created for a lot of US businesses," Al-Jadaan said in an interview Wednesday with Bloomberg Television in Washington, the first stop in Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s three-week tour of America. The Saudi delegation is also expected to visit Boston, New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Houston on a trip scheduled to last through 7 April.

The crown prince’s visit comes as the kingdom declared crackdown on corruption, which left dozens of princes, billionaires and former officials jailed in Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in November. Most of the detainees have since been released in exchange for financial settlements, leading some analysts to dismiss the detentions as an intimidation tactic or shakedown.

The episode, which came as the crown prince consolidates power, spooked some foreign investors, whose buy-in is crucial to the success of his plan to overhaul Saudi Arabia’s oil-dependent economy.

But Prince Mohammed received a warm welcome by President Donald Trump on Tuesday. The Saudi delegation will visit American companies in several industries including entertainment, technology and banking, Al-Jadaan said. Saudi officials are already in talks for investments in US infrastructure and technology, he added.

Besides business deals, the kingdom is also planning a dollar-denominated bond sale in the next few weeks, Al-Jadaan said, with the size of the sale yet to be determined. The kingdom has "almost hired" banks for the offering and is considering five-year, seven-year, 10-year, 12-year and 30-year bonds or longer. The Government is looking at other currency options but sticking to dollar-denominated securities for now, he added.

Al-Jadaan dismissed suggestions that the government’s fiscal overhaul—put into motion during the oil price rout—have become less urgent now that crude prices are higher. Officials have introduced unpopular measures over the past two years including new taxes and hikes to domestic energy prices as they try to bolster non-oil government revenue.

The finance minister added that fiscal reforms are not oil price connected and that the energy price reform was implemented again at the beginning of 2018 year despite the fact that oil prices have increased, and the Government remains determined and committed to continue.

Despite complaints from the private sector, the government doesn’t plan to revise a new "expat fee" that was imposed in January on Saudi businesses that employ foreign workers, Al-Jadaan said.

“There are no plans to revise any of the reforms that we have implemented. These have been modeled for an extended period of time. We knew what the impact is going to be,” he said, according to Bloomberg.


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