Ibec cancels Saudi investment event

Missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Pádraig Hoare

Ibec has cancelled an event with the Irish Saudi Arabia Business Council due to take place in Dublin today, following an international outcry over the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The council had said the event was to focus “on the opportunities that now exist in Saudi Arabia for Irish business” and was due to be attended by the Saudi ambassador, Hail Al Jubeir, and Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy as well as “possible ministerial representation”. Mr McCoy said Ibec cancelled the joint trade and investment event.

Irish secretary of the NUJ, Seamus Dooley, said the “prompt reaction” was the correct decision by Ibec.

This conference had been planned for some time and it is appropriate that, in the worsening situation in Saudi Arabia, that the Government and Irish companies take a new look at plans to strengthen links with the Saudi regime,” he said.

Meanwhile, the head of the IMF has deferred her trip to Saudi Arabia, where she had planned to attend an investment conference, later this month, adding to a growing number of business and finance leaders who have decided to skip the event after the disappearance of the Saudi journalist.

IMF managing director Christine Lagarde’s previously scheduled trip to the Middle East is being deferred, a fund spokesperson said. Ms Lagarde had said last week that she still intended to attend the Future Investment Initiative.

The one-sentence statement from the IMF didn’t give a reason for the change or mention the summit.

A string of financial and business leaders has pulled out of the summit, which is organised by the Saudi crown prince, including JP Morgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon and Credit Suisse Group chief executive Tidjane Thiam.

The New York Times, which was a media sponsor of the conference, has pulled out. CNN has also withdrawn. The Khashoggi affair is eclipsing the three-day Future Investment Initiative, nicknamed Davos in the Desert, intended to showcase Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s modernisation plan for the desert kingdom. Billionaire Richard Branson sees the case as a potential gamechanger for companies doing business with Saudi Arabia, halting Virgin Group’s talks for the Saudi sovereign wealth fund to invest in a space venture.

A part of bin Salman’s plan to overhaul the Saudi economy is an attempt to attract foreign direct investment into the kingdom. In a recent interview he said the event would see the sealing of a major investing agreement in the non-oil economy.

- Additional reporting Bloomberg

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