Siemens boss expected to pull out of Saudi conference over Khashoggi death


Joe Kaeser poised to reverse decision to attend Future Investment Initiative event

The head of German engineering firm Siemens, Joe Kaeser, is poised to become the latest business leader to pull out of next week’s investment conference in Saudi Arabia following the death of Jamal Khashoggi.
Kaeser had initially indicated he would still attend the “Davos in the sun” event, but after pressure from senior German politicians over the weekend, he appears to have had second thoughts. A spokesman said on Sunday he was still undecided and would make a final decision by Monday at the latest.
Business leaders have been abandoning the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh in droves. Most of the big-name executives due to attend, including the heads of Deutsche Bank, Uber and Siemens’ rival ABB have dropped out as outrage over the Saudi journalist’s death at the country’s Istanbul consulate grows.
Kaeser and the head of the French electricity giant EDF, Jean Bernard Levy, were among the few CEOs still planning to attend last week.
Siemens has around 2,000 employees working on several contracts in Saudi Arabia, and claims that a third of the country’s energy is generated using its technology. The company was awarded a $2bn contract to build trains, signals and communications equipment for the new Riyadh underground network in 2013.
The leader of Germany’s Social Democratic party, Andrea Nahles, had called on Kaeser to cancel his plans to attend the conference. The country’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, also from the SPD, told German public television on Saturday evening that cancellations sent the right signal.
“I certainly wouldn’t participate in an event in Riyadh at the moment,” he said. “And I have great understanding for those who have cancelled.”
Executives from across business, including many of those on the event’s advisory board, have withdrawn from the event, which is due to start on Tuesday. The conference organisers removed all the names of attendees from its website as the number of cancellations grew.
The US treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, pulled out on Friday after previously saying he would attend. The Financial Times, Bloomberg, CNN and CNBC have withdrawn as media sponsors.
Several British accountancy firms, including Deloitte, EY and PricewaterhouseCoopers are listed as the event’s “knowledge partners”. An EY spokeswoman said she understood the firm’s position had not changed and it would still attend. Deloitte and PwC were unavailable for comment.