Saudi conference facing speaker withdrawals

Saudi Arabia’s flagship investment conference, the Future Investment Initiative, has been hit by a string of withdrawals from high profile figures who were scheduled to speak at the event.

Dubbed Davos in the Desert, the conference is run by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund Public Investment Fund (PIF) and has been a key plank of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s efforts to promote international investment.

However ongoing fallout from the disappearance of Saudi-born journalist Jamal Khashoggi, last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey on October 2, has cast a dark cloud over the event which is due to take place between October 23 and 25.

At the time of writing, the list of invitees not attending includes the respective CEOs of Blackstone and Blackrock, Stephen Schwarzman and Larry Fink, the heads of major banks JP Morgan, HSBC, Credit Suisse, Standard Chartered and BNP Paribas as well as the CEO of the London Stock Exchange David Schwimmer and the managing director of the IMF Christine LaGarde.

A number of corporate heads have also withdrawn including Google cloud CEO Diane Greene and Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber in which the PIF is a major investor. The UK trade minister has also withdrawn, as have the French and Dutch finance ministers, and US treasury secretary Stephen Mnuchin.

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