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Global investors pull $1.1bn from Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi 'murder'

Lianna Brinded
Head of Finance, Yahoo Finance UK
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud. Photo:Reuters

Investors around the world have pulled $1.1bn in funds from Saudi Arabia over the last week and the pain is unlikely to stop anytime soon as the diplomatic dispute over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi heats up.

“Foreigners were net sellers in the Saudi market last week to the tune of SAR 4.0bn, equivalent to $1.1bn,” said Arqaam Capital research director, Michael Malkoun told Yahoo Finance UK. “This is the highest level of net foreign selling registered since the Tadawul (stock exchange) began to publish this data in 2015.”

The Tadawul has a large domestic ownership as only 5% of the stocks are owned by foreign investors. This has largely allowed the Tadawul, which has a market capitalisation of $507bn, to avoid heavy losses and in fact see a flow of $1bn between the beginning of September and October.

However, fund managers are getting increasingly anxious over the diplomatic fallout over the emerging details of Khashoggi’s murder.

Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia said that Khashoggi was murdered but blamed a “rogue operation” for his killing. Saudi’s foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Fox News the act was a “tremendous mistake.”

Khashoggi was a prominent critic of Saudi’s authoritarian regime and was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October. Al-Jubeir denied Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud had ordered the killing.

Meanwhile, several politicians and global business leaders have pulled out of an investment conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia next week amid a worldwide diplomatic dispute over Khashoggi’s disappearance. 

READ MORE: Here’s everyone who has dropped out of Saudi Arabia’s ‘Davos of the Middle East’

Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative, a conference that is widely known as the “Davos of the Middle East,” has provided a platform for business leaders and politicians to take a stand against the lack of information and transparency over what happened to Khashoggi.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, AOL founder Steve Case, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde, and JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon are among the growing list of people that have cancelled their attendance at the conference. 

Meanwhile, Siemens boss Joe Kaeser is under pressure from the senior German politicians to also withdraw from the event as he is yet to confirm his decision.

“I hope that Joe Kaeser will rethink this,” the leader of the Social Democrats (SPD), Andrea Nahles, told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday.