The Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah has invited the Chairmen of Royal Dutch Shell Group and ExxonMobil for talks to salvage the twenty five billion dollars worth of planned investments in the kingdom's natural gas industry, company officials have said.
The kingdom needs partners to help develop aluminum, chemical and other industries outside of oil. Because of lower prices, Saudi Arabia this year may have its worst recession in seventeen years. Shell and partners want the contracts to gain a foothold in the country, which holds a quarter of the world's known oil reserves.
“There comes a point in time where you have to reach a conclusion, and I think we are close to that time,” said Ihsan Bu-Hulaiga, a member of the kingdom's Shura Council, an appointed consultative body that studies legislation.
Abdullah initiated talks for the country's biggest single foreign investment at a meeting with executives from Shell, Exxon Mobil and their rivals at a 1998 meeting in Washington. Talks since then with lower Saudi officials have failed over the split of profits from the ventures. The companies want returns of around fifteen percent, in line with other projects.