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U.S. investors praise Saudi reform commitment at Davos

By Dmitry Zhdannikov

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Asset management giant BlackRock and chemical major Dow Chemical praised Saudi Arabia on Thursday as the kingdom said it was pressing ahead with reforms and investments beyond oil.

"We are seeing astonishing transparency... It is as good as anywhere we invest, including the United States," Dow Chemical Chief Executive Andrew Liveris told a panel devoted to Saudi Arabia at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Dow Chemical has a joint chemical project in Saudi Arabia.

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"It is a pleasure to watch (the Saudi government)," Laurence Fink, chief executive of BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager with $5 trillion in assets under management, said.

Saudi Arabia has announced a plan to reform and modernize its economy which foresees the world's largest oil exporter cutting its dependence on energy and developing private sectors.

"Large jumbo jets don't fly with one engine," Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih told the same panel, adding that the kingdom will develop its mining and renewables sectors and invest actively abroad as it did recently with Uber [UBER.UL].

It is also preparing to list state oil producer Saudi Aramco on a major exchange in the coming years, hoping to get a valuation of more than $1 trillion, which would be bigger than any existing listed firm.

Fink said Saudi Arabia's commitment to reform contrasted with many countries. Their reforms failed because they were not based on market dynamic and because they lacked proper government commitment, he said.

"I see that the Saudi government believes in itself. If you see such confidence, investors will believe in this too," Fink said adding he believed Saudi reforms were transformational.

"If we can find more opportunities like that (Saudi), we are building a safer world for our investments," said Fink, mentioning discussions with investors about Saudi Aramco.

(Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Alexander Smith)

 
 
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