Billionaire 'would rather invest in NKorea than Saudi Arabia'

Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris 'would rather invest in North Korea than Saudi Arabia'
2 min read
13 February, 2019
Egyptian billionaire would not invest in Saudi Arabia where he is not "convinced there is rule of law and order".
Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris at the red carpet of an Egyptian Film Festival [Getty Images]

Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris said he would not invest in Saudi Arabia as he does not believe there’s rule of law in the country.

"Personally, I can invest anywhere in the world, why would I go somewhere where I am not convinced there is a rule of law and order. And that there is real democracy, and that people are free,” Sawiris said on Tuesday in an interview with CNBC.

Sawiris encouraged the kingdom's de-facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to continue with his liberalisation policies and vision for the economy but said he "needs to come straight on human rights".

The chairman of Orascom Telecom, whose native Egypt has locked up tens of thousands of political activists and is debating a motion to extend President Sisi's term in office, said he wants to invest "somewhere he feels comfortable".

This has not prevented Sawiris from investing in North Korea’s mobile phone network. Sawiris hopes to further invest in the country’s mining, tourism, agriculture, ago-industries if President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reach an agreement, he said.

Investment in Saudi Arabia has slowed in recent years, due to the unpredictability of the kingdom’s young crown prince and a number of human rights scandals surrounding his tenure.

"The Khashoggi murder is a very bad situation, and as far as I'm concerned I don't think we should be investing in Saudi Arabia for that reason unless there is some real big change," Emerging markets investor Mark Mobius told CNBC last week.

Saudi Arabia has faced increased international scrutiny in recent months for its involvement in the killing of US based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who criticised the Kingdom.

"The political situation in the whole world has never been worse," Sawiris said, pointing to autocratic leaders in Russia, China and Turkey as well as to Trump.