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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Citigroup's Corbat hails Saudi reforms despite Alwaleed's arrest

US got new licence to operate in Saudi in April 

Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud,one of the world's richest men and now one of more than 200 individuals detained for questioning on corruption and embezzlement charges. Orestis Panagiotou / EPA
Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud,one of the world's richest men and now one of more than 200 individuals detained for questioning on corruption and embezzlement charges. Orestis Panagiotou / EPA

Citigroup chief executive Michael Corbat said he’s encouraged by Saudi Arabia’s increasing openness, despite the lack of transparency around the arrest of the bank’s long-standing promoter in the nation.

“We look at some of the progressive things that are happening there — we’re encouraged by it,” Corbat said in an interview with Erik Schatzker Wednesday at the Bloomberg Year Ahead summit in New York. “I think it’s a societal transformation.”

Citigroup, which lost its Saudi investment banking licence by selling its stake in Samba Financial Group in 2004, got a new license in April. Corbat said the nation was welcoming of the bank’s return, including the fact that the unit would be led by a woman.

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Read more:

Regional markets face bumpy ride as Saudi anti-corruption drive intensifies

New Saudi committee to investigate public corruption opens 'new era of transparency'

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Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the 62-year-old Saudi billionaire, was detained by authorities on Saturday without disclosure of the allegations. Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding Co. has held Citigroup shares since 1991, and Corbat called him a “very consistent, loyal supporter” of the firm. Alwaleed is no longer among the bank’s biggest shareholders, though he has one of the largest stakes among individuals, Corbat said.

The CEO said he didn’t have any insight into Alwaleed’s situation.

“We’ve got a number of people being held under this broad title of corruption, and we actually don’t know what the specified charges or accusations are below that,” he said.

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