Saudi Arabia still moving ahead with three major development projects

DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia is still 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.

Qiddiya, multi-billion dollar entertainment resort, launching ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi April 28, 2018. REUTERS/Marwa Rashad

The global outrage over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has prompted some Western companies to put partnerships on hold, or hold off from taking funds from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, which is chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

British billionaire Richard Branson earlier this month said he would suspend his directorship in two Saudi tourism projects around the Red Sea, citing Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Saudi Arabia’s mega business zone called NEOM is still proceeding with prospective partners, despite the fallout over Khashoggi, NEOM’s chief executive Nadhmi al-Nasr said on Thursday.

“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,’” al-Nasr said.

There will be 16 sectors in the NEOM economy, sectors that are meant to become competitive multinational corporations, al-Nasr said.

Sector planning will last until May or June 2019, then construction and implementation afterwards, he added.

Theme park operator Six Flags (SIX.N) is going ahead with plans to open in Saudi Arabia, Michael Reininger, the chief executive of Saudi Arabia’s Qiddiya said.

Qiddiya, which is about an hour’s drive from Riyadh, is being built on a 334 square km (8,400 acre) site, making it 2-1/2 times the size of Disney World.

Construction of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea tourism project will start in 2019 and open the first phase of its development in 2022, the Red Sea Development Company’s chief executive, John Pagano, said.

Saudi Arabia plans to develop resorts on 50 islands off the Red Sea coast, backed by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund. The Red Sea Project, to be built between the cities of Amlaj and al-Jawh, will offer a nature reserve, diving in coral reefs and heritage sites.

Reporting by Katie Paul, Marwa Rashad, writing by Hadeel Al Sayegh, editing by Alexander Smith and David Evans

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