Senior Saudi officials touring the U.S. to drum up business will visit investment banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp., Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said.
“There are opportunities being created for a lot of U.S. businesses," Al-Jadaan said in an interview Wednesday with Bloomberg Television in Washington, the first stop in Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s three-week tour of America. The Saudi delegation is also expected to visit Boston, New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Houston on a trip scheduled to last through April 7.
The 32-year-old crown prince’s visit comes as the kingdom faces criticism over the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen and a declared crackdown on corruption, which left dozens of princes, billionaires and former officials jailed in Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in November. Most of the detainees have since been released in exchange for financial settlements, leading some analysts to dismiss the detentions as an intimidation tactic or shakedown.
The episode, which came as the crown prince consolidates power, spooked some foreign investors, whose buy-in is crucial to the success of his plan to overhaul Saudi Arabia’s oil-dependent economy.
But Prince Mohammed received a warm welcome by President Donald Trump on Tuesday. The two leaders, who have bonded over a shared enmity of Iran and a desire to make deals, lavished praise on each other. A day earlier, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Washington that relations with the U.S. are “at an all-time high.”
The Saudi delegation will visit American companies in several industries including entertainment, technology and banking, Al-Jadaan said. Saudi officials are already in talks for investments in U.S. infrastructure and technology, he added.
Besides business deals, the kingdom is also planning a dollar-denominated bond sale in the next few weeks, Al-Jadaan said, adding that the size of the sale has yet to be determined.
The kingdom has "almost hired" banks for the offering and is considering 5-year, 7-year, 10-year, 12-year and 30-year bonds or longer, he said. The government is looking at other currency options but sticking to dollar-denominated securities for now, he added.
Al-Jadaan dismissed suggestions that the government’s fiscal overhaul -- put into motion during the oil price rout -- have become less urgent now that crude prices are higher. Officials have introduced unpopular measures over the past two years including new taxes and hikes to domestic energy prices as they try to bolster non-oil government revenue.
“Fiscal reforms are not oil price connected," Al-Jadaan said. "We implemented energy price reform again at the beginning of this year despite the fact that oil prices have increased, so we are determined and committed to go on."
Despite complaints from the private sector, the government doesn’t plan to revise a new "expat fee" that was imposed in January on Saudi businesses that employ foreign workers, he said.
“There are no plans to revise any of the reforms that we have implemented," he said. "These have been modeled for an extended period of time. We knew what the impact is going to be."
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