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Total’s Pouyanne Breaks From Crowd, Attends Saudi Investment Conference

Total’s chief executive Patrick Pouyanne has gone against the predominant sentiment in the business world and will attend the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh unlike a number of prominent company CEOs who pulled out in the wake of the Jamal Khashoggi disappearance and subsequent developments such as the confirmation of his death at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

In a statement published on the company’s website, Pouyanne said, “Total has never been in favor of sanctions and isolation — for example, against Russia, Iran or Qatar — and nor do we support boycotts.” The CEO added, “I have made this point clear on many occasions on behalf of Total and we have consistently maintained that stance.”

Besides Total’s principal position on sanctions and boycotts, however, Pouyanne also noted the long-standing relationship between Total and Aramco, and more specifically the recent announcement of a joint petrochemicals project. The US$9-billion complex will have an ethylene production capacity of 1.5 million tons annually as well as a petrochemicals unit. Aramco and Total will shoulder US$5 billion of the investments needed with plans to have the facility operational by 2024.

Pouyanne’s position is certainly pragmatic and it stands in stark contrast to the positions of several high-ranking executives who began pulling out of the conference soon after the news broke that Jamal Khashoggi—a critic of Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman—disappeared in Istanbul.

Among those that canceled their trips to Riyadh were the chief executives of JPMorgan, HSBC, Blackrock, Siemens, and Uber, as well as U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

Other energy industry executives have, however, followed Pouyanne’s example. Earlier today, Livesquawk tweeted from the conference that a number of deals were expected to be signed by Thursday with companies including Schlumberger, Halliburton, Baker Hughes, and Trafigura.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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