According to an exclusive report by Reuters, Apple and Amazon are in talks with the local authorities on investing in Saudi Arabia, as part of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s push to give a high-tech look to the kingdom. Citing an anonymous source, the publication notes that Apple has been carrying out licensing discussions with Saudi Arabia’s foreign investment authority SAGIA.
The two companies currently sell products in the region via third parties, and are now looking to establish a direct presence. It is believed that Amazon’s discussions are being led by cloud computing division Amazon Web Service (AWS), although the talks are in earlier stages and no specific date has been set for investment plans. Meanwhile, a licensing agreement for Apple stores with SAGIA is expected by February, with an initial retail store targeted for 2019.
Riyadh has been easing regulatory impediments for the past two years, including limits on foreign ownership which had long kept investors away, since falling crude prices highlighted the need to diversify its oil-dependent economy.
Luring Apple and Amazon would further Prince Mohammed’s reform plans and raise the companies’ profile in a young and relatively affluent market, which already boasts some of the highest internet and smartphone use in the world. About 70 percent of the Saudi population is under 30 and frequently glued to social media.
A recent market research revealed that Apple already holds second place in the Saudi mobile phone market behind Samsung.