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The head of the IMF is skipping Saudi Arabia's investment conference

The head of the IMF is skipping Saudi Arabia's investment conference

HONG KONG (CNN Business) - Saudi Arabia's big investment conference is losing more high-profile guests as the international crisis over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi intensifies.

The latest to drop out are the managing director of the International Monetary Fund and the heads of two major French banks.

The Saudi event, known as "Davos in the desert," has suffered an exodus of global business leaders, including the CEOs of JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Uber, in the past week as questions have mounted over the fate of Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the Saudi government.

The IMF said in a statement late Tuesday that Managing Director Christine Lagarde's trip to the Middle East for the conference next week "is being deferred."

It's an abrupt change of position from Lagarde, who said as recently as Saturday that she still planned to speak at the event in Riyadh despite being horrified by reports about Khashoggi's disappearance.

BNP Paribas (BNPQY), France's largest bank by assets, said Wednesday that Chairman Jean Lemierre will no longer attend. Société Générale (SCGLY) CEO Fréderic Oudéa also dropped out Wednesday.

They were joined later on Wednesday by Glencore Chairman Tony Hayward. All four had previously been listed as speakers by conference organizers.

Khashoggi, a former Saudi royal court insider who contributed to The Washington Post, hasn't been seen since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

Turkish officials have told CNN he was killed inside the consulate. Saudi authorities have so far maintained that Khashoggi left the consulate the same day he went in, but they have provided no evidence to support the claim.

Lagarde said Saturday that her job is "to conduct the business of the IMF in all corners of the world, and with many governments." But she added that she would "be very attentive to the information that is coming out" in the next few days.

The IMF didn't immediately respond late Tuesday to a request for further comment about her change of plans.

The Saudi conference, officially titled the Future Investment Initiative, is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's ambitious plan to revamp the country's oil-dependent economy.

Earlier Tuesday, the CEOs of top European banks HSBC (HSBC), Credit Suisse (CS) and Standard Chartered (SCBFF) all pulled out of the event, as did the head of the London Stock Exchange (LNSTY).

Most of the event's international media partners, including CNN, withdrew their support last week.

Will Mnuchin and others still go?

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is among the high-profile figures who have said they still expect to attend the Saudi conference.

But President Donald Trump on Monday opened the door to the possibility that Mnuchin may withdraw, telling reporters that "we haven't made a decision about going yet." He said a final call would be made by Friday.

On Wednesday, foreign ministers from the G7 nations, including the United States, issued a statement saying they "remain very troubled by the disappearance of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi."

"Those bearing responsibility for the disappearance of Mr. Khashoggi must be held to account," the statement said. "We encourage Turkish-Saudi collaboration and look forward to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia conducting a thorough, credible, transparent, and prompt investigation."

Business leaders who have said they still plan to go to the Saudi conference include Joe Kaeser, the CEO of German engineering conglomerate Siemens (SIEGY), and Jean-Bernard Lévy, the CEO of French energy company EDF.

Japanese tech group SoftBank (SFTBF) has failed to respond to repeated requests for comment about the attendance of several of its senior executives, including CEO and founder, Masayoshi Son. The company has become one of the world's most powerful tech investors, thanks to Saudi money.

SoftBank Chief Operating Officer Marcelo Claure said Tuesday at a tech event in California that the company is "anxiously looking at what is happening" in relation to Khashoggi's disappearance, according to Reuters.

"We, like most parties in the world, are watching events unfold," said Claure, who is one of the SoftBank executives scheduled to speak at the Saudi conference. "We are just monitoring."

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Business is boycotting Saudi Arabia's big conference. Here's who's still going

Business is boycotting Saudi Arabia's big conference. Here's who's still going

(CNN Business) - Some of the biggest names in global business and finance have canceled plans to attend an investment conference in Saudi Arabia next week because of the unexplained disappearance of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Washington Post columnist hasn't been seen since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

Sources told CNN on Monday that Saudi Arabia is preparing to acknowledge that Khashoggi was killed during an interrogation that went wrong. Saudi authorities have so far maintained that Khashoggi left the consulate the same day of his visit, but have provided no evidence to support the claim.

The Saudi conference, known as "Davos in the desert," is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's plan to transform the oil-dependent economy.

JP Morgan (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon and the heads of America's top investment firms --- Blackrock (BLK) and Blackstone --- are among the leading figures who have decided to stay away. Top executives at Ford (F) and MasterCard (MA) have also pulled out, and Google (GOOGL) said Tuesday that the head of its cloud computing business wouldn't participate in the event either.

Three of Europe's top bankers --- the CEOs of HSBC (HSBC), Credit Suisse (CS) and Standard Chartered (SCBFF) --- pulled out on Tuesday. The heads of the International Monetary Fund and the London Stock Exchange (LNSTY) also decided not to go. They were joined Wednesday by the chairman of BNP Paribas (BNPQY), France's biggest bank.

The chief executives of several prominent Asian and European companies --- some of whom have benefited from hefty Saudi investments --- are still planning to attend, or are refusing to talk about their plans.

Here's a list of big names who are still planning to participate:

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser

EDF CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy

Thales CEO Patrice Caine

These executives have not yet commented on whether they still plan to attend:

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son

Glencore Chairman Tony Hayward

Societe Generale CEO Fréderic Oudéa

Accor CEO Sébastien Bazin

These are the high-profile participants who have pulled out of the Saudi conference:

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi

Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman

Blackrock CEO Larry Fink

MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish

HSBC CEO John Flint

Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam

BNP Paribas Chairman Jean Lemierre

Standard Chartered CEO William Winters

London Stock Exchange CEO David Schwimmer

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde

Thrive CEO Ariana Huffington

Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene

Sinovation Ventures CEO Kai-Fu Lee

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim

Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong

Economist Editor-in-Chief Zanny Minton Beddoes

New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin

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