With multi-billion-dollar investment agreements, two appearances and one inspiring yet defiant speech by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the kingdom ended the three-day Future Investment Initiative summit in Riyadh on Thursday.
It was a bigger success than many had envisaged before Tuesday when the second chapter of the conference kicked off in Riyadh. Deals worth over $60 billion dollars, including more than $34bn of investment going into the kingdom’s energy sector alone is a clear proof of the event’s success, which many thought lacked the gloss, clouded by the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey earlier this month.
The crown prince, who made an appearance on day one of the event, spoke at the concluding session of day two along with Prince Salman Al Khalifa, Crown Prince of Bahrain and Saad Hariri, the prime minister of Lebanon. His address was wide ranging, including everything from the “heinous” murder, the country’s cooperation and relations with Turkey, to his vision of the Saudi economy and the region saying “the coming renaissance in the next 30 years will be in the Middle East.”
“Davos in the Desert”, as the event is called, boasted more than 150 speakers from 140 different organisations and 17 global partner entities.
Despite some top executives of western financial institutions and corporations withdrawing from the event, FII still attracted the top brass of sovereign wealth funds, energy companies, infrastructure firms and global consultancies. There was no shortage of support from the heads of state from the Middle East, Pakistan and as far away as Ethiopia, Gabon and Senegal.
The regional and mid-level executives of banks including JP Morgan, Credit Suisse, HSBC and Standard Chartered attended the event, a clear message that as far as they were concerned, it was business as usual.
In terms of deals and agreements, Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil-producing company, signed 15 preliminary agreements worth $34bn with leading energy and oil services companies. The pacts were signed with 14 companies, including Total, Hyundai Heavy Industries, Acwa Power, Sumitomo Norinco New Energy, Baker Hughes, Schlumberger and Halliburton.
"The [deals] reflect both Saudi Aramco’s and the kingdom’s international partnership strategies and the determination to diversify the economy, enhance the domestic investment environment and boost employment opportunities," Aramco said. "They support Saudi Aramco’s forward-looking strategy across business units, including downstream, offshore and engineering."
Several agreements in mineral and mining and infrastructure spaces including construction of rail road projects in the kingdom were also signed.
On day two of the event, Gems Education and Hassana Investment company, the arm of Saudi Arabia’s General Organisation for Social Insurance also signed a partnership to invest up to $800 million over the next decade to acquire and develop schools in the kingdom.
NMC Health signed also with Hassana a preliminary agreement to invest up to 6bn riyals (Dh6.05bn) in healthcare facilities in the kingdom over the next five years.