CEO Dara Khosrowshahi says his company isn't changing anything in terms of its relationship with Saudi Arabia until more is known about the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. [...]
ABU DHABI: Saudi Arabia is discussing a proposal that could see OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers cut output by up to 1 million barrels per day, two sources told Reuters on Sunday, as the world's top oil exporter grapples with a drop in crude prices. [...]
SoftBank’s Son sees profit surging amid scrutiny over Saudi ties
Tokyo • SoftBank Group Corp founder Masayoshi Son is starting to see the benefits of his enormous technology investments — along with the scrutiny that comes from taking money from Saudi Arabia.
SoftBank reported second-quarter profit of ¥706 billion (RM25.85 billion), far exceeding analyst estimates, thanks to multibillion dollar gains from his many deals. SoftBank shares rose as much as 4% in Tokyo yesterday. Yet, Son also faced repeated questions during a post-earnings briefing in Tokyo about his relationship with Saudi Arabia, the biggest investor in his US$100 billion (RM417 billion) Vision Fund.
Son has been remaking SoftBank from primarily a telecommunications operator into a technology investment firm. His investments contributed ¥393 billion to profit in the quarter, more than all the other businesses combined. The company cited increased valuations of India’s online hotel start-up OYO Rooms and graphics card maker Nvidia Corp among its gains.
“The Vision Fund is showing profits worthy of SoftBank 2.0,” Son said at a briefing in Tokyo. “Next year, I believe we will not only exceed these results, but may even deliver an operating profit on the level that Japan has never experienced before.”
SoftBank reported earnings that exceeded the highest of analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The profit surge was driven by gains from investments in technology companies. Son proactively addressed the controversy over a murdered Saudi journalist and his company’s relationship to the kingdom’s government. Still, he faced repeated questions about the issue. Son also said that SoftBank will proceed with an initial public offering (IPO) for its Japanese wireless business and vowed that he would maintain profits by cutting costs.
SoftBank has faced criticism over its relationship with Saudi Arabia in the wake of the murder of government critic Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents. The kingdom contributed US$45 billion to the Vision Fund as Son forged personal ties to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Salman, whose associates have allegedly been implicated in the killing.
Son began his Tokyo press conference by addressing the murder, his first public comments on the incident. He said he pressed the Saudis to get to the bottom of the Khashoggi killing and hold the guilty accountable. However, he said SoftBank will continue to use Saudi money for investments because he has an obligation to help the country diversify its economy.
“It is a terrible tragedy that should not have occurred,” he said. “On the other hand, we have accepted an investment from the citizens of Saudi Arabia. It is an important investment for the economic diversification of Saudi Arabia, to get their economy away from depending solely on crude oil. We cannot turn our backs on the Saudi people.”
Son’s proactive comments didn’t end the scrutiny. He faced several questions about the Saudi relationship and what the possible implications of the investigation are.
As for the financial results, they showed that predicting Vision Fund contributions on a quarterly basis remains a challenge for investors and analysts. The fund benefitted as its stake in OYO doubled in value to about US$200 million, while shares of Nvidia rose 19% last quarter. SoftBank also saw a surprise profit at Sprint Corp, the US wireless operator that it is planning to sell.
“The earnings numbers themselves are extraordinary,” said Mana Nakazora, chief credit analyst in Tokyo at BNP Paribas SA. “Perhaps, it can’t be helped due to accounting procedures, but it is becoming harder to understand where the profits are coming from.”
Son went on to explain that his Vision Fund is capitalising on a surge of innovative technology companies. The fund has backed 60 unicorns — start-ups worth US$1 billion or more — in the past two years, he said. He then took time at the briefing to highlight a few of the promising start-ups in his portfolio. He joked, however, that he didn’t have enough time to talk about all the strong companies.
SoftBank is aiming to raise capital to be able to keep making investments in tech start-ups. The company is planning an IPO for its domestic telecom operation, which may raise ¥3 trillion. It has the potential to be the largest such offering ever — with about 30% of the equity to be listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Dec 19, people with knowledge of the matter said last month.
But the plans have come into question after NTT Docomo Inc, Japan’s biggest mobile carrier, said it may
cut rates 40% and “return” ¥400 billion to customers. That sparked a sell-off among the country’s three major wireless operators, which lost a combined US$34 billion the day following the announcement.
Son said the competition won’t hurt his company’s profits. He said SoftBank aims to cut costs by trimming about 40% of the wireless business workforce, largely by introducing automation technology. Some employees will be reallocated to other parts of SoftBank.
“I can make a commitment right here that profit and revenue in the mobile business will continue to grow,” Son said.
SoftBank shares had climbed 29% from the start of the year through their peak in late September, but they gave up all of those gains since amid the negative news and a decline in technology stocks.
Son was also asked whether the Saudi relationship had prompted any start-ups to say they wouldn’t accept Saudi money. He responded by saying he didn’t know of any cases — and there was clear evidence to the contrary. One of the questions he fielded in Tokyo was from a Brazilian entrepreneur who wanted to know whether Son would be interested in hearing more about his country — and his financial technology start-up.
“We are always open,” Son said with a smile. — Bloomberg
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TOKYO: Japan's SoftBank Group Corp CEO Masayoshi Son will face questions shortly on Monday about his company's dependence on Saudi Arabia, in his first public appearance since the murder of a journalist by Saudi security forces sparked global outrage. [...]
Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel Ahmed Al-Jubeir called on Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the latter's office on Friday prior to concluding his three-day visit to Malaysia. In 2016, Al-Jubeir reportedly said the multi-billion ringgit funds received by then-premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak was a "genuine donation" from Saudi. [...]
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's crown prince Wednesday denounced the murder of critic Jamal Khashoggi as a "heinous crime", insisting the kingdom was cooperating with Turkish authorities and "justice will prevail".
"The crime was very painful to all Saudis. And it is painful, heinous to every human being in the world," Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in his first comments since the murder of the journalist.
"Those behind this crime will be held accountable ... in the end justice will prevail," said during an address to the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh.
Saudi leaders have denied involvement in Khashoggi's murder inside Saudi Arabia's Istanbul consulate on Oct 2, pushing responsibility down the chain of command.
But the kingdom is under mounting international pressure over the killing amid US accusations of a monumental cover-up by the kingdom.
Prince Mohammed, widely known as MBS, said Saudi Arabia was working with the Turkish authorities to investigate the case.
"Many are trying to exploit the Khashoggi affair to drive a wedge between Saudi Arabia and Turkey," he said.
"But they will not succeed as long as there is a king named Salman and a crown prince named Mohammed bin Salman." — AFP [...]
PETALING JAYA: A Twitter storm has erupted after the son of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi met with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. [...]
BENGALURU: Saudi Arabia's market fell sharply after a volatile day of trading on Tuesday, as foreign and retail investors continued to sell despite efforts from state-backed funds to limit the fallout from the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. [...]
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia signed deals worth $50 billion on Tuesday, showing it can still attract investment at a conference boycotted by Western politicians and global business chiefs after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. [...]
(Oct 20): Saudi Arabia admitted that a journalist and government critic was killed in its consulate in Istanbul, offering an explanation that distanced the royal... [...]
Saudi Arabia hit out at accusations Jamal Khashoggi was murdered inside its Istanbul consulate.
Saudi Arabia dismissed on Saturday accusations that Jamal Khashoggi was ordered murdered by a hit squad inside its Istanbul consulate as “lies and baseless allegations”, as Riyadh and Ankara spar over the missing journalist’s fate.
As the controversy intensified, the Washington Post reported Turkish officials had recordings made from inside the building that allegedly proved their claims Khashoggi was tortured and killed at the consulate.
A Saudi delegation arrived in Turkey for talks, officials said on Friday, with the case risking fragile relations between the two.
In the first Saudi ministerial reaction to the accusations about Khashoggi’s killing, Interior Minister Prince Abdel Aziz bin Saud bin Nayef said that “what has been circulating about orders to kill him are lies and baseless allegations”.
The Kingdom “is committed to its principles, rules and traditions and is in compliance with international laws and conventions”, he added according to the official Saudi Press Agency.
The case risks damaging the image of the kingdom and its ties to the West as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman promotes a reform drive at home.
Big names from media and business have already cancelled appearances at a major conference in Riyadh this month.
Saudi journalist and Washington Post contributor Khashoggi vanished on October 2 after entering the consulate to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage.
Turkish government sources say police believe he was killed but Riyadh denies that.
– Did he leave? –
The Saudi delegation, whose composition was not immediately clear, is expected to meet with Turkish officials in Ankara at the weekend, state media said on Friday.
It is likely that they will take part in a joint working group on the case, whose creation was announced Thursday by Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin following a request by Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi official source quoted by SPA news agency said it was “a positive move” Turkey had agreed to the creation of what it described as a “joint action team” over Khashoggi’s disappearance.
The Turkish leadership has so far stopped short of accusing Saudi Arabia, although pro-government media have published sensational claims, including that an “assassination team” was sent to Istanbul to kill Khashoggi.
In a rare public comment on the case by a Saudi official, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Britain, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf al Saud, told the BBC that Riyadh was “concerned” about its citizen.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has challenged Saudi Arabia to provide CCTV images to back up its account that Khashoggi left the consulate safely.
Khashoggi, a Saudi national living in the US since September 2017 fearing arrest, criticised some policies of Mohammed bin Salman and Riyadh’s intervention in the war in Yemen.
The Washington Post reported the Turkish government has told US officials it has audio and video recordings which show how Khashoggi was “interrogated, tortured and then murdered” inside the consulate before his body was dismembered.
Turkish officials contacted by AFP refused to comment on the veracity of the report.
– ‘Visual’ search only –
Ankara and Riyadh have been on opposing sides in the region on key issues, including the ousting of the Islamist Egyptian government and last year’s Saudi-led blockade on Turkey’s regional ally Qatar. Yet as key Sunni Muslim powers they have maintained cordial relations.
But despite Riyadh’s agreement on Tuesday to let Turkish authorities search the Saudi mission, the probe has not yet taken place. The two sides have been in intense contacts to resolve the issue, local media reported.
Pro-government Turkish newspaper Sabah said the search of the consulate had not yet happened because Saudi officials would only allow a superficial “visual” probe.
The Turkish side did not accept the offer and Sabah said officials wanted to search the building with luminol, a chemical that allows forensic teams to discover blood traces.
Officers were looking into sound recordings sent from a smart watch that Khashoggi was wearing when he was inside the consulate to a mobile phone which he gave to his Turkish fiancee waiting outside, Hatice Cengiz.
Milliyet daily reported that “arguments and shouting” could be heard on the recordings, but Sozcu newspaper said only “some conversations” could be heard.
– ‘Chilling effect’ –
Bloomberg, the Financial Times, The Economist and The New York Times withdrew as media sponsors from the second Future Investment Initiative to be held between October 23-25 in Riyadh dubbed “Davos in the Desert” after the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort.
The CEO of ride-hailing app Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi, said that he will no longer be attending the event unless “a substantially different set of facts emerges”.
British entrepreneur Richard Branson said he would suspend two directorships linked to tourism projects in Saudi Arabia over concerns about the missing journalist.
Amnesty International demanded the Saudi authorities reveal what happened to Khashoggi as it said Riyadh was “responsible at a minimum for enforced disappearance”.
– AFP [...]
DUBAI/RIYADH/LONDON: Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) has shown no interest so far in financing Tesla Inc CEO Elon Musk's proposed US$72 billion deal to take the U.S. electric car maker private, despite acquiring a minority stake in the company this year, two sources familiar with the matter said. [...]
DUBAI/HONG KONG: Saudi Aramco and Petronas have approached banks to replace a short-term US$8bil loan raised earlier this year for a joint venture with long-term financing of approximately the same size, banking sources familiar with the matter said. [...]
WASHINGTON • Saudi Arabia suspended diplomatic ties and new trade dealings with Canada in response to Canada’s call for the release of women’s rights activists — a dramatic escalation that highlights the kingdom’s increasingly assertive foreign policy under Crown Prince Mohammed Salman.
Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Ottawa and ordered the Canadian envoy to Riyadh to leave within 24 hours, according to a Foreign Ministry statement. Canada is “seeking greater clarity” about the matter, a spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry cited remarks last week by Freeland and the Canadian embassy in Riyadh, criticising the arrests of women’s rights activists including Samar Badawi.
She is a Canadian citizen whose brother Raif Badawi, a blogger who was critical of the government, was already in jail in the kingdom.
Canada’s remarks are “an affront to the kingdom that requires a sharp response to prevent any party from attempting to meddle with Saudi sovereignty”, the ministry said.
Under Prince Mohammed, King Salman’s son and the power behind the throne, Saudi Arabia has reacted more aggressively against countries that it perceives as intervening in its internal affairs. In little more than a year, the kingdom has led a four-country coalition that severed ties with neighbouring Qatar, recalled its ambassador to Germany and cut back its trade dealings with some German companies amid a diplomatic row. It was also widely blamed for forcing Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri to briefly resign, a charge it denies.
“The rupture in Saudi diplomatic relations with Canada underscores how the ‘new’ Saudi Arabia that Mohammed is putting together is in absolutely no mood to tolerate any form of criticism of its handling of its domestic affairs,” said Kristian Ulrichsen, Middle East fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy in Texas.
Saudi foreign policy began to change when King Salman succeeded his late brother Abdullah in 2015, and positioned his son as the most powerful prince in the kingdom.
As defence minister, Prince Mohammed is also in charge of the kingdom’s military involvement in Yemen against Iranian-backed rebels.
Under previous leaders, the kingdom largely chose subtle diplomacy and relied mainly on its financial firepower to gain influence. Critics of that policy say the kingdom struggled to achieve its objectives.
The stand-off pits a Saudi government that’s slowly opening the door to women’s rights against Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, an outspoken champion of women’s advancement, who named a gender-balanced Cabinet shortly after his 2015 election.
Just two months ago, Saudi women were given the right to drive a car, yet several of the country’s most prominent women’s rights activists — including some who fought for years to drive — were arrested earlier this year on national security grounds.
“We are seriously concerned by these media reports and are seeking greater clarity on the recent statement from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Marie-Pier Baril, a spokeswoman for Freeland, said in an email.
“Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, very much including women’s rights, and freedom of expression around the world. Our government will never hesitate to promote these values and believes that this dialogue is critical to international diplomacy.”
Saudi investments in Canada include G3 Global Holdings Ltd, a joint venture between Bunge Ltd and Saudi Agricultural & Livestock Investment Co, which purchased the former Canadian Wheat Board in 2015.
Saudi Arabia has invested about US$6 billion (RM24.48 billion) in Canadian businesses since 2006, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
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var EMOTE_TEXT = ["HAPPY","INDIFFERENT","AMUSED","EXCITED","ANGRY","SAD"]The post Saudi Arabia suspends ties with Canada over activist row appeared first on The Malaysian Reserve. [...]
KOTA BARU: The previous government's plan to build a Saudi-backed King Salman Centre for International Peace (KSCIP) on a 16-ha plot of land in Putrajaya has been cancelled by the Pakatan Harapan Government. [...]
Saudi women attend a hackathon in Jeddah August 1, 2018, prior to the start of the annual Haj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca. — AFP pic
JEDDAH, Aug 5 — Fuelled by caffeine, pizza and adrenaline, sleep-deprived programmers in a marathon Saudi contest this week explored high-tech solutions to prevent a repeat of past calamities in the annual Haj pilgrimage.In a cavernous hall in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, thousands of software professionals and students competed in the kingdom’s first-ever hackathon, a coding festival ahead of the world’s largest pilgrimage later this month.The Haj, expected to draw more than two million pilgrims to Mecca this year, represents a key rite of passage for Muslims and a massive logistical challenge for Saudi authorities, with colossal crowds cramming into relatively small holy sites.Launching headlong into 36 hours of software development, the participants from across the globe battled sleep deprivation to crowd source answers to a key question that has long vexed Haj organisers — how to avert future deadly disasters.A group of five Saudi, Yemeni and Eritrean women, all in their 20s and covered head-to-toe in the Islamic niqab, hunched over their laptops to design an app for paramedics to speedily reach people in need of medical attention using geo-tracking technology.If multiple emergencies arise at once, the women hoped their app would help prioritise the most pressing cases.Two Pakistani professionals paired up with two East Asian students to develop a “virtual leash” application to locate relatives lost in the sea of humanity by using Bluetooth wristbands.Four Saudi men sought to design sensors for garbage bins that would alert cleaners when they are full to avert any hygiene scare.And another group of Saudi women scrawled algorithms and programming codes on a whiteboard to design an app to help non-Arabic speakers translate instructions into multiple languages without an internet connection.With nearly 3,000 programmers — who ate and slept at the venue — organisers said Saudi Arabia had broken the Guinness World Record for the largest number of participants at a hackathon.While their solutions are still untested, the event, which ended on Friday and offered cash prizes of around two million riyals (RM2.17 million), was billed as an invention marathon by organisers.“We aim to upgrade the experience of Haj for all pilgrims from all over the world,” said Nouf al-Rakan, chief executive of the Saudi Federation for Cyber Security and Programming, which organised the event.“This (hackathon) will enrich that experience, will give us plenty of solutions and ideas that we can actually adapt and invest in,” she told AFP.‘Modernising narrative’Saudi Arabia’s custodianship of Mecca and Medina — Islam’s two holiest sites — is seen as the kingdom’s most powerful form of political legitimacy. But a series of deadly disasters over the years have prompted criticism of the Sunni kingdom’s management of the annual pilgrimage, most notably from arch rival and Shiite powerhouse Iran.In September 2015, a stampede killed up to 2,300 worshippers — including hundreds of Iranians — in the worst disaster ever to strike the pilgrimage.Earlier that month, 100 people were killed when a construction crane toppled into a courtyard of Mecca’s Grand Mosque.The tragedies prompted scathing criticism from Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said the Saudi ruling family did not deserve to manage Islam’s holiest sites. “I imagine the Saudi authorities are very anxious to avoid a repeat of past mishaps that could reflect badly on the ‘modernising’ narrative around Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” said Kristian Ulrichsen, a fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute in the US.Prince Mohammed’s Vision 2030 reform plan seeks to shift the economy of Saudi Arabia — the world’s top crude exporter — away from oil dependency towards other sources of revenue, including religious tourism.The scheme for the post-oil era aims to draw six million Haj pilgrims annually. Additionally, the kingdom hopes to attract another 30 million pilgrims to umrah, a lesser pilgrimage to Mecca that can be completed during the rest of the year.Last October, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund announced plans to set up two investment companies to develop infrastructure in Mecca and Medina, in a bid to accommodate the increasing numbers of Muslim pilgrims.Last year’s Haj passed without major health or safety upsets, but a politicisation of the Haj remains a concern amid regional rivalries.Saudi Arabia and its allies are also embroiled in a political boycott of neighbouring Qatar, which denies accusations of fostering close ties with Iran and backing extremism.“For the Saudi ruling elite, its custodianship of the two holy sites is arguably more sensitive this year in the wake of the heightened tension in the region,” Ulrichsen said. — AFP [...]