Siemens CEO pulls out of Saudi investment conference over Khashoggi case | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 22.10.2018
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Siemens CEO pulls out of Saudi investment conference over Khashoggi case

The chief executive of the German industrial conglomerate, Joe Kaeser, will not attend the Saudi-organized Future Investment Initiative this week. He said his decision was "the cleanest" though not "the most courageous."

After receiving "hundreds, if not thousands" of e-mails and posts urging him not to attend the Future Investment Initiative (FII), Joe Kaeser on Monday announced his withdrawal from the Saudi conference.

The chief executive of Siemens is now one of many high-profile senior executives and financiers pulling out of the three-day event in Riyadh this week, after Saudi Arabia has admitted it murdered Saudi government critic Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul two weeks ago.  

In a post on social network LinkedIn, Kaeser described his move as "the cleanest decision but not the most courageous one." He also wrote that the decision was not one "against the Kingdom or its people," and noted that Siemens had been "a reliable partner to Saudi Arabia for decades."

"But for now, the truth must be found and justice must be served," he added in the post.

Read more: Opinion: Why the Saudi business conference should be left to wither in the sun

Pressure had been mounting for the Siemens CEO to withdraw from the FII conference, which is intended to showcase the reform efforts undertaken by the new Saudi strongman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

German foreign minister Heiko Maas said Sunday that if he were in Kaeser's position he wouldn't take part. He told business daily Handelsblatt last week that "now is not the time to be talking about future business projects at an investors' forum."

Read more: Angela Merkel puts on hold arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Deals luring

Germany's Siemens was one of the last companies to decide against the presence of its top executive at the conference. Last week ABB chief executive Ulrich Spiesshofer bowed out, following in the footsteps of others including Airbus defense chief Dirk Hoke and Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing.

Read more: Saudi's business conference hit by cancellations over Khashoggi case

Kaeser said his decision was no condemnation of the Saudi population or a value judgment on Siemens's 2,000 local employees in Saudi Arabia and partners like Saudi Aramco, SABIC, SEC and the Abunayyan group.

At the same time he explained his reluctance to shun the conference with considerations for the interests of all stakeholders and business opportunities in Saudi Arabia worth up to $30 billion (€26.19 billion) by 2030.

"But sometimes, situations develop in such a way that no one can win, where every option is wrong. The so-called Khashoggi crisis, the death of Jamal Khashoggi, is such a situation," he added.

Watch video 01:25

The Saudi conference fewer and fewer want to attend

uhe/tr (Reuters, AFP)

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