Airbus said its defence chief Dirk Hoke will no longer attend the Future Investment Initiative conference in Saudi Arabia, the latest senior industry executive to skip next week’s event amid concern about the fate of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Deutsche Bank’s CEO, Christian Sewing, has also cancelled plans to attend the summit, a source close to the matter said yesterday.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who had been trying to rebuild strained ties with the kingdom before Khashoggi disappeared on October 2, called the situation “unacceptable”. He told reporters that Berlin would draw its consequences once Riyadh provided a statement on the issue.
Airbus said Hoke would not attend the Saudi investment conference given a new guideline ordering executives to abstain from high profile engagements there, but the company would not break off contact with the Gulf kingdom.
“We believe it is important to maintain engagement and dialogue in a country which hosts about 1,000 of our employees,” a spokesman said.
Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser has not yet announced whether he will attend.
Opposition lawmakers are calling on Berlin to halt arms deliveries to the kingdom, the second largest customer of German weapons this year behind Algeria.
Germany approved a total of €416mn in arms sales to Saudi Arabia in the first nine months of 2018, economics ministry data showed. Maas told reporters: “If the rumours should prove true, it’s not only shocking, it’s unacceptable. We believe that it is about time now for the statement that Saudi Arabia has promised.”
He said Germany would respond promptly after the statement, and in co-ordination with its European allies.
The German government decides on any arms exports individually, with a particular eye on human rights in the receiving country, a government spokeswoman said.
Annalena Baerbock, leader of the left-leaning Greens party, called for all German arms deliveries to Saudi Arabia to “be put on ice immediately” and urged Kaeser and other executives to cancel their participation in the conference.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc on Thursday joined the growing list of high-profile businesses snubbing the Saudi investment conference.
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.
“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.”
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 $10bn 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. The US Federal Reserve officials are monitoring the case of Khashoggi and the possibility that any sanctions against Saudi Arabia could disrupt oil markets, Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic said yesterday.
Asked about the risks to the US economic outlook at an event in Macon, Georgia, Bostic mentioned geopolitical risks generally, the Brexit talks and “the Saudi Arabian situation and the question about what whether what happened to that journalist is going to lead to sanctions that could impact oil markets.”
“We don’t know what is going to happen,” but are monitoring the situation,” Bostic said.
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