State-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co., or Aramco, is in talks with Alphabet about jointly building a large tech hub inside the Kingdom, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the potential deal. The partnership would also involve Alphabet building data centers around Saudi Arabia.
Amazon, separately, is wrapping up a deal worth $1B to build three data centers in the Kingdom, sources told the Journal. The deal is expected to be announced during a trip to the U.S. by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman early this year.
Alphabet CEO Larry Page has participated in the data talks, which have progressed in large part because of Prince Mohammed’s embrace of Silicon Valley — a who’s who of VC and tech execs attended the Future Investment Initiative conference organized by his office and held in Riyadh in October. However, the Journal‘s report offered some cautionary notes, stipulating that the size and details of the venture remain unclear and that talks could collapse at any point.
The news comes amid the Crown Prince’s move to diversify the economy and reduce the Kingdom’s dependence on oil. The progressive royal has established the Vision 2030 program that includes vast plans for the media and entertainment space. Saudi recently reversed its 35-year ban on commercial movie screenings and has been in discussions to take a stake in WME parent company, Endeavor, for $500 million.