RIYADH, SAN FRANCISCO: Saudi Arabian and US companies have signed 36 memorandums of understanding worth $16 billion (Dh58.7 million), the official SPA news agency reported. The MoUs were signed in the framework of a business forum in New York and the CEOs of big companies from both countries and some Saudi officials took part, SPA said. It added that the signing of the agreements coincided with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s US visit, but no additional information was provided.
The Saudi Prince is scheduled to meet with technology titans in the US this week in search of deals that would diversify his country’s oil-dependent economy.
On Friday, he will be in Seattle, with plans to meet Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos and Microsoft Corp. CEO Satya Nadella, said people familiar with the matter. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates will host the 32-year-old prince at his home.
Over the weekend, Prince Mohammad will jet to Los Angeles for potential meetings with representatives of Hollywood studios, Snap Inc. and Virgin Hyperloop One, a transportation startup backed by DP World Ltd.
He’ll be in Silicon Valley late next week, looking to meet with executives from Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Uber Technologies Inc. and Apple Inc., said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private.
The prince’s agenda includes a push for Amazon to consider working with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Energy on building a data centre in the country, which would be the first in the Middle East for the world’s largest cloud provider, said one of the people. He wants to explore a plan that would have Alphabet open new offices in Saudi Arabia and provide the state-owned oil giant, Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known as Aramco, with cloud services, one of the people said.
On Tuesday afternoon in New York, the head of Google’s cloud business signed an agreement with Aramco to establish a national cloud service provider.
The flurry of meetings is part of Prince Mohammad’s first official visit to the US since becoming heir to the throne last year. He has aggressively pushed for investments in tech, including a $3.5 billion deal with Uber in 2016 and the creation of a massive tech fund with SoftBank Group Corp. that’s reshaping the global startup market.
The prince’s three-week tour of Washington, New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Houston is focused more on business than politics.
Developing industries, including technology, is a key part of the prince’s plan to diversify the Saudi economy beyond oil and create jobs for its young population. Part of that plan involves loosening more of the kingdom’s social restrictions, including some of those on women. Representatives from the companies on the prince’s agenda all declined to comment.
A major goal is to lure more businesses to Saudi Arabia. Officials have put together proposals for Apple, Snap and others to open offices in the capital city, Riyadh, one of the people said.