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Saudi Aramco chief: Bin Salman’s arrests are ‘something good’

The chief executive of Saudi Aramco, Amin Nasser [Hussein Nasser Al-Maznaie/Wikipedia]

The chief executive of Saudi Aramco has attempted to boost investor confidence which has been dented by last week’s purge targeting many of the country’s wealthiest investors.

Amin Nasser moved to dampen concerns over the sweeping anti-corruption campaign authorised by the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, by telling global investor that it should be viewed “very positively”.

The world’s biggest oil producer is gearing up to sell shares in the state oil company, Aramco, said to be worth $2 trillion, as part of a major overhaul of the country’s economy. However, political instability and uncertainty over the country’s future could potentially derail the flotation scheduled for 2018.

Nasser attempted to quell concerns following the sweeping anti-corruption campaign that has seen over 1,200 accounts frozen and the Kingdom’s best-known international investor, Al-Waleed Bin Talal, detained.

Read: The British government is courting Saudi Aramco

“We support and welcome all the measures taken by the government to eradicate any type of corruption,” Nasser was reported as saying by the Financial Times. “As an investor you would like to go to a climate where you don’t see any type of corruption whatsoever. So, they should look at it very positively.”

Critics have said that the clampdown was a cynical ploy designed by Bin Salman to remove political oppositions. Nasser disputed the claims saying that they had been “taken for obvious reasons” and suggested that the clampdown was a key part of Bin Salman’s anti-corruption programme set out in the Vision 2030 blueprint for reforming Saudi Arabia’s economy.

“The crown prince talked about it, that nobody would be spared; princes, ministers, whoever,” Nasser said. “Any investors going anywhere would want to see these measures taken. If you are saying ‘I am fighting corruption and making sure that there is zero tolerance for any type of corruption’, this is something good.”

Saudi Aramco oil processing plant [File photo]

Saudi Aramco oil processing plant [File photo]

Nasser’s comments came on the back of fears of instability in Riyadh as well as concerns over the lucrative Aramco deal which has come under enormous scrutiny in the West.

Wealthy Saudis, according to a report in Bloomberg, are moving assets out of the country to avoid the risk of being caught up in the crackdown. Stocks in the Gulf also lost $6.8 billion in 72 hours following last week’s purge.

Equally concerning, 11 companies listed on the Saudi stock market, reported an Arab source, plan to cut their capital by $1.32 billion, equivalent to 42.2 per cent of their total capital, in order to reduce their accumulated losses since the beginning of this year. In that period Saudi has moved from one crisis to another.

Read: UK accused of ‘watering down’ rules to accommodate Saudi

Meanwhile, Riyadh’s planned flotation of Aramco has come under attack. UK Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has flagged concerns over the $2 billion loan guarantee that was agreed with the Saudi oil giant last week, which some have described as an attempt to woo Riyadh while it mulls over potential markets for the lucrative flotation.

In his letter to the UK Chancellor Phillip Hammond on Tuesday, McDonnell inquired if the loan was in the best interest of the British people. The Labour MP also queried if the loan had been an attempt to secure the Aramco listing on the London Stock Exchange.

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