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Business opportunity in Saudi Arabia in doubt

As the number one oil exporter, Saudi Arabia has earmarked $1.4 trillion for domestic infrastructure spending. But with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman facing global scrutiny, the risk is starting to outweigh the reward. CNN's John Defterios reports.

Posted: Oct 24, 2018 5:45 AM
Updated: Oct 24, 2018 6:04 AM

Masayoshi Son, the tech tycoon who has spent billions of Saudi money, is staying away from the kingdom's major investment summit this week.

The founder and CEO of Japanese tech company SoftBank (SFTBY) won't attend the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, a person familiar with the matter told CNN on Wednesday.

Dozens of other top business leaders have canceled plans to take part in the event, which is widely known as "Davos in the desert," following international uproar over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

But Son's ties to the kingdom and its de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, are particularly strong. Over the past few years, he has become Saudi Arabia's most important partner in the tech world.

Son was the star guest at the conference last year, sitting alongside the prince at the glitzy Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. When bin Salman made a brief appearance at this year's event on Tuesday, Son was nowhere to be seen. A front row seat reserved for him was empty.

SoftBank declined to comment on his absence.

Son and his chief operating officer, Marcelo Claure, were both named as speakers by the Future Investment Initiative before a host of top names began canceling plans to attend.

Neither are now listed as speakers, although Son is mentioned as a member of the conference's advisory panel.

The company was represented on a panel at the event Tuesday by a lower-ranking executive, Saleh Romeih, a managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers.

The exodus of executives from the Saudi conference — including the CEOs of JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Uber and Siemens (SIEGY) — has dealt a big blow to the event. The gathering is part of efforts by bin Salman to transform the country's economy and shake off its reliance on oil.

Son has positioned himself as a key player in those plans, persuading bin Salman to provide $45 billion for a giant tech fund and committing SoftBank to help with some of Saudi Arabia's showcase projects.

The CEO used Saudi Arabia's oil riches to help him become one of the world's most powerful tech investors.

The kingdom provided nearly half the money for SoftBank's $93 billion tech-focused Vision Fund, which has made big investments in startups such as WeWork and Slack.

One of the Vision Fund's managing partners, Saleh Romeih, took part in the conference on Tuesday. He said the fund had recently opened offices in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

SoftBank has also promised to help the Saudi crown prince in his efforts to shift the country's oil-dependent economy toward new industries such as technology and renewable energy.

The Japanese company is involved in Saudi projects to build a new mega city and the world's largest solar farm.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 767409

Reported Deaths: 13980
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1054251805
Lake569191030
Allen42938698
St. Joseph37313568
Hamilton37298426
Elkhart29749470
Tippecanoe23479230
Vanderburgh23201405
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Hendricks18072321
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Grant7366181
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Marshall6332116
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Noble599290
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Union73610
Ohio58111
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 1123964

Reported Deaths: 20490
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1304331493
Cuyahoga1172542263
Hamilton824421261
Montgomery535421062
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Lucas43747834
Butler40000614
Stark33837939
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Delaware19143138
Licking16863227
Trumbull16801492
Fairfield16793207
Medina15861276
Greene15528254
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Portage13432218
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Allen12049245
Richland11740213
Miami11019228
Wayne9258228
Columbiana9204236
Muskingum9133137
Pickaway8750123
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Marion8710140
Erie8135166
Ashtabula7281179
Hancock7048135
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Scioto6701108
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Jefferson5725162
Huron5638122
Sandusky5488130
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Seneca5377128
Washington5371111
Athens526960
Auglaize507487
Mercer491185
Shelby482797
Knox4614113
Madison447566
Ashland444898
Defiance438799
Fulton436375
Putnam4354104
Crawford4114111
Brown409662
Preble3949107
Logan392179
Clinton390766
Ottawa375881
Highland366068
Williams356678
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Guernsey330554
Jackson321354
Perry298850
Morrow294743
Fayette289150
Hardin279365
Henry277167
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Holmes2725102
Van Wert252265
Adams249858
Gallia249850
Pike244737
Wyandot235257
Hocking222963
Carroll201249
Paulding179942
Meigs151240
Monroe137945
Noble137739
Harrison115238
Morgan111624
Vinton87317
Unassigned04
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