Participants arrive to attend the last day of the investment conference in Riyadh on Thursday. Image Credit: REUTERS

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia has signed $56 billion (Dh205.52 billion) of deals at an investment conference that concluded on Thursday and expects the US to remain a key business partner despite a partial boycott of the event over the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“There were more than 25 deals signed worth $56 billion,” Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al Falih told state television, adding that US companies accounted for most of those contracts. “The US will remain a key part of the Saudi economy because the interests that tie us are bigger than what is being weakened by the failed boycotting campaign of the conference.”

State oil firm Saudi Aramco said it had signed deals with 15 international partners worth more than $34 billion at the conference. The firms included US oilfield services giants Schlumberger, Halliburton and Baker Hughes.

There were also deals to bring foreign investment and technology into Saudi Arabia’s education, health care and housing construction industries. Some of the deals were memorandums of understanding which may never progress to the stage of firm contracts, and other deals had already been planned for months.

Economy Minister Mohammad Al Tuwaijri told the conference that the government had received many expressions of interest from Asian and European companies in buying Saudi state assets.

Finance Minister Mohammad Al Jadaan disclosed positive figures for government finances, which have been a major concern for foreign investors since oil prices plunged in 2014. Non-oil revenue in the third quarter jumped 48 per cent from a year ago while spending surged 25 per cent, he said.

A senior European banker at the conference said that while the Saudi image among some international bond investors had been damaged, investment patterns would probably return to normal in a couple months. “Business has a short memory,” he said.

Oil market is shifting into oversupply

* Saudi Arabia said the oil market could be shifting towards oversupply in the fourth quarter as oil inventories rise and demand slows, and the top oil exporter will “mirror” such changes in its production. “So we want to be watchful not to over-correct and cause a substantial inventory build,” said Adeeb Al Aama, the Saudi Opec governor.

* Saudi Arabia is moving ahead with three major development projects — NEOM, the Red Sea tourism project, and an entertainment development that will include a Six Flags theme park. “I’ve had tens of meetings last couple of days with all the partners we’ve been talking to for last few years. The feeling is “let’s go”,” said NEOM’s chief executive Nadhmi Al Nasr.