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Former House GOP leader praises Saudi Arabia's ‘bold transformation’

Former congressman and House of Representatives majority leader Eric Cantor had good things to say about Saudi Arabia while speaking at the ADNOC Downstream Investment Forum in Abu Dhabi Sunday.

Hadley Gamble.

He described an unprecedented anticipation around what he saw as the Islamic kingdom’s economic diversification and the deepening of strategic partnerships, both politically and economically.

“I think there are some very bold things going on in this region, and certainly Saudi Arabia is a big part of that,” he said.

The Virginia Republican, who served in Congress for 13 years, now helps lead the international investment bank Moelis & Company as its vice chairman. The bank is the sole independent advisor on Saudi Aramco’s IPO (initial public offering), the highly anticipated public listing of Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil giant, estimated to be the most valuable company in the world at more than $2 trillion.

Kingdom officials are aiming for the listing to raise around $100 billion and attract a valuation in the range of $1 trillion to $2 trillion, though the listing has been delayed and may not happen until 2019.

The world’s largest oil producer, known for its rigid social conservatism, is in the midst of unprecedented economic and social change, launched by its young crown prince, the 32-year-old Mohammed bin Salman, who in 2017 announced women would be given the right to drive.

Investment in non-oil sectors and a raft of privatizations of state assets all stem from Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, an extensive reform program aimed at economic diversification and reducing dependence on hydrocarbons. The government is looking to private sector investment in order to create jobs for Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning youth population, more than 60 percent of whom are under 30.

“I think what you’re going see is a lot of interest in terms of foreign investors to be a part of the economic growth that comes from this transformational vision,” Cantor said.

“And it’s not just in the commerce arena, it has to do with social transformation as well. So there’s a lot of opening up going on in the region as a whole, and Saudi Arabia being the largest economy and market here provides a lot of attractive destinations for capital.”

A national re-brand?