Saudi crackdown will not hit investments: energy minister Falih

BONN, Germany (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s corruption investigations are linked to a just few individuals and will not hinder investments in the kingdom, its energy minister said on Thursday.

Saudi Oil Minister, Khalid al-Falih, arrives to attend the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

Khalid al Falih said the crackdown was way overdue and would also not have any impact on plans to float shares in oil giant Saudi Aramco.

“Everybody understands that this is a limited, domestic affair that the government is simply cleaning house,” he said on the sidelines of the U.N. climate conference in Bonn, Germany.

Saudi Arabia’s future king has tightened his grip on power through an anti-corruption purge by arresting royals, ministers and investors including billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal who is one of the kingdom’s most prominent businessmen.

The move by Prince Mohammed bin Salman against Saudi’s political and business elite also targeted the head of the National Guard, Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, who was detained and replaced as minister of the powerful National Guard by Prince Khaled bin Ayyaf.

The energy minister said many foreign investors who had been have been doing business in Saudi Arabia for decades “will tell you that they have not seen corruption in their interactions with the Saudi government or with the Saudi entities”.

“It (the crackdown) has no impact on foreign direct investment. It has no impact whatsoever on the kingdom’s openness, capital flows and our wide open investment environment,” he added.

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Saudi Arabia’s plan to float around 5 percent of Aramco in an initial public offering (IPO) is a centerpiece of Vision 2030, a wide-ranging reform plan to diversify the Saudi economy beyond oil.

Falih said a decision is yet to be made on where the listing would be made.

On the upcoming meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna at the end of the month to decide the fate of a global oil production cut, Falih said an extension beyond the March 2018 expiry was needed to rebalance the oil market.

OPEC and ten other oil producers led by Russia agreed last year to curb production by some 1.8 million barrels per day to get rid of an oversupply in the market.

Reporting by Ahmad Ghaddar; Editing by Andrew Heavens