Bob Diamond Says Crackdown in Saudi Arabia Signals More Openness

(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia King Salman’s crackdown on prominent princes, government officials and businessmen may mark a step toward a more open, investment-friendly society, according to Atlas Merchant Capital Chief Executive Officer Bob Diamond.

“I believe there’s an opportunity here for a much more open society,’’ Diamond, the former CEO of Barclays Plc, said Sunday at the Chinese Finance Association annual conference in New York. “Why does that matter to us as bankers here? Because I think Saudi Arabia and the Middle East is becoming a better destination for us to invest there, and we’re certainly looking at opportunities to invest within Saudi Arabia in financial services.”

Security forces arrested 11 princes, four ministers and dozens of former ministers and prominent businessmen, Bloomberg reported Sunday, according to Saudi media and a senior official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The arrests, including that of billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, were conducted shortly after the establishment of an anti-corruption committee.

Diamond attended the Future Investment Initiative conference in Saudi Arabia in October, where he said Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, King Salman’s son, was front and center, representing a younger and more moderate society.

Diamond has been snapping up financial companies since starting his firm in 2013. Atlas Merchant agreed this year to join with Qatari investment bank QInvest LLC and take British stockbroker Panmure Gordon & Co. private. Its holdings also include Somerset Reinsurance Ltd., a Bermuda life reinsurer, and broker-dealer South Street Securities Holdings.

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