Sun, Apr 08, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Google, Thiel part of Saudi prince’s Silicon Valley tour


Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Friday wrapped up a whirlwind tour of technology titans, which was part of a three-week US visit focused on economic opportunities to diversify the oil-rich nation.

The Saudi delegation visited several Silicon Valley corporate campuses, including Apple Inc and Facebook Inc. However, two industry players stood out on the schedule: Alphabet Inc’s Google and Peter Thiel, the billionaire venture capitalist who advises US President Donald Trump.

In addition to Facebook, where Thiel sits on the board, the Saudi delegation visited data analysis start-up Palantir Technologies Inc and a trio of investment firms created by Thiel: Clarium Capital, Valar Ventures and Founders Fund. Thiel is chairman and cofounder of Palantir.

“Discussions concentrated on creating an attractive environment for emerging companies with innovative products,” Saudi Arabia’s embassy said in a statement.

A representative for Thiel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Thiel has kept a low public profile since his unorthodox support for Trump’s candidacy. Yet, the president invited him to dine at the White House earlier this week, Bloomberg News reported.

Thiel brought Oracle Corp chief executive officer Safra Catz, who is a reliable Google foe.

The prince also visited Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, where he met founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as well as chief executive officer Sundar Pichai, the Saudi embassy said.

During the trip, the Saudis signed a cloud computing contract with Google, but financial terms were not disclosed.

Google confirmed the meetings, but offered no further comment.

The Saudi delegation checked out another part of Alphabet: its driverless car business Waymo.

A Chrysler Pacifica self-driving minivan from Waymo led a motorcade of hulking, black SUVs in Mountain View on Thursday, images viewed by Bloomberg showed.

Waymo often gives visiting officials rides in its autonomous vehicles.

A Waymo spokesman declined to comment.

Separately, Saudi Arabia’s state oil company is to sign an agreement this weekend with a British oilfield services firm to explore building chemical facilities in Texas, people familiar with the matter said.

The agreement with TechnipFMC PLC involves a study for a potential chemical unit on the US Gulf Coast that would be able to produce materials used in gasoline and as industrial solvents, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is not public.

There would also be a study on a facility that can make ethylene, a key compound for making plastics.

Saudi Aramco, through its Motiva Enterprises LLC subsidiary, owns North America’s largest refinery, in Port Arthur, Texas.

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