Apple could debut its first retail location within Saudi Arabia as soon as 2019, thanks to the government’s current push towards a “high-tech look” for the country. Reuters reports today that officials in Saudi Arabia’s capital of Riyadh — including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — are currently in licensing discussions with both Apple and Amazon in an effort to entice major technology companies into the country.
Apple is rumored to be talking with SAGIA, Saudi Arabia’s foreign investment authority, and a licensing agreement for Apple’s retail stores with the authority is expected to come by February 2018. The first location would then be targeted for an opening in 2019.
Apple and Amazon are in licensing discussions with Riyadh on investing in Saudi Arabia, two sources told Reuters, part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s push to give the conservative kingdom a high-tech look.
A licensing agreement for Apple stores with SAGIA is expected by February, with an initial retail store targeted for 2019, said two sources familiar with the discussions.
Amazon’s cloud computing division, Amazon Web Services, is said to be leading the company’s discussions with Saudi Arabian officials. The talks are believed to be in “earlier stages” than Apple’s, with no specific time frame given for Amazon’s investment plans in the country.
The Saudi Arabian government’s regulations previously placed heavy limits on foreign ownership of businesses, preventing companies like Apple and Amazon from coming to the country. In the past two years, however, falling crude oil prices “highlighted the need to diversify” the country’s dependency on oil within its economy, leading to courting technology companies.
Evidence of this came in September, when Saudi Arabia lifted a ban on services that provide access to calling someone over the internet, including Apple’s FaceTime. The ban was enacted in 2013 and began due to the government’s fear of non-secure internet communication among its residents, but was lifted this year in the country’s new efforts to “attract more business” to its economy.
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