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Goldman Sachs joins growing band of businesses snubbing Saudi conference

October 19, 2018 at 5:44 am

US Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin speaks during a press conference in Berlin, Germany on 16 March, 2017 [Cüneyt Karadağ/Anadolu Agency]

Goldman Sachs Group Inc on Thursday joined the growing list of high-profile businesses snubbing a Saudi investment conference next week amid mounting pressure on Riyad over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Reuters reports.

A number of top bankers and business leaders, including the CEOs of JP Morgan Chase & Co, Blackstone Group LP, BlackRock Inc and the chairman of Ford Motor Co, have pulled out of the event in recent days.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday also abandoned plans to attend.

In an interview with CNBC, Goldman CEO David Solomon said the bank was not sending any senior executives. He said that Dina Powell, a Goldman executive who rejoined the bank earlier this year after serving as an adviser to President Donald Trump, had initially planned to attend but would not go.

Read: 20 global firms pull out as Trump tries to salvage ties with Saudi

“This incident is unacceptable and clearly they have to answer questions specifically regarding this incident,” Solomon said. “How they answer those questions and how more information becomes apparent will have an impact on how we all interact.”

Other chief executives are still torn over whether to attend. Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser on Tuesday said he had not yet made up his mind whether to attend the event in a country where his company has almost 2,000 employees and had some 1.4 billion euros in sales in 2017.

“There is a person missing… there is a massive concern. On the other hand, if we skip communicating with countries where people are missing, I just can stay home because I cannot talk to anybody anymore,” he said at an event in Toronto.

Read: Details of the 11-minute audio recording of the torture and death of Khashoggi

Media outlets are also boycotting the event. On Thursday, Fox News said it had cancelled its sponsorship of and participation in the event, joining outlets such as CNN, the New York Times and Bloomberg LP.

Goldman began operating in Riyadh in 2009 and obtained new licenses in 2014 and 2017 that have allowed it to expand. It bought a portion of oil giant Aramco’s $10 billion credit facility last year in an attempt to secure a role in the company’s IPO, which is delayed.

The bank was recently hired by the Saudis’ main sovereign wealth fund, PIF, to advise on the sale of its majority stake in Saudi petrochemicals giant Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) to Aramco, sources have told Reuters.

Where is Jamal Khashoggi?... - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Where is Jamal Khashoggi?… – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]