World Markets

Bad press about the Middle East won't stop me investing there, BlackRock's Fink says

Key Points
  • BlackRock's Larry Fink said the press was playing a good role in addressing issues in the Middle East.
  • He said bad press was not necessarily a reason to avoid investments in a region.
  • Aberdeen Standard Investments chairman says it's necessary to look past the security situation.
Issues in the press about Middle East don't tell me to run away: BlackRock CEO

Negative media reports about the Middle East and the ruling authorities in the region are not a reason to end investment plans, according to the CEO of BlackRock.

"The fact that there are issues in the press does not tell me I must run away from a place. In many cases it tells me I should run to and invest because what we are most frightened of are things that we don't talk about," BlackRock Chief Executive Larry Fink told CNBC's Hadley Gamble during a panel session in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

Fink said he felt the power of the press was playing a good role in addressing issues in the Middle East and he was witnessing continued reform.

"Most issues that are being addressed in the media are (being) mitigated. And that is why long-term optimism is generally the right strategy for most investing over a long horizon," Fink said.

Saudi Arabia has come in for renewed criticism after it introduced an antiterrorism law in November 2017 that laid out lengthy prison terms for offenses linked to political and religious speech.

Authorities there have reportedly used the legislation to jail prominent women's rights activists, journalists, and other government critics.

Nonetheless, BlackRock's Fink said changes he had witnessed in the kingdom over the past few years had been "pretty amazing" and that a modernization across the wider Middle East was in place.

"I see governments willing to move forward. I see governments in the region focusing on how to widen financial inclusion and increase social inclusion," he said.

Aberdeen Standard Investments chairman: Higher oil prices help confidence in Gulf

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia displayed its merciless streak after it ordered the execution of 37 people across the country for alleged terrorism-related crimes. The killings took place just days after four gunmen from the so-called Islamic State died while trying to attack a Saudi security building near Riyadh.

Speaking at the same conference, the chair of Aberdeen Standard Investments, told CNBC that the security situation in the region would not deter his investment interest either.

"I know this sounds a bit callous, but you have almost got to try and ignore it and just really look at the companies," Martin Gilbert said.