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The Middle East must avoid making the same investing mistakes as Europe, BlackRock's Larry Fink says

Key Points
  • His comments come at a time when some of the world's leading financiers are returning to Saudi Arabia after the oil-rich kingdom held some of the year's largest merger and bond deals.
  • Nonetheless, BlackRock's Fink said it would be "essential" for Middle East governments to drum up support from domestic investors too.
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BlackRock CEO: We will play a role in working with domestic investors in Middle East

The Middle East must tread carefully to ensure it does not make the same investment mistakes as Europe, according to the CEO of the world's largest asset manager.

"The only way to get more financial inclusion in this region and every region is to have greater participation in the capital market through equities in their retirement plans," BlackRock Chief Executive Larry Fink told CNBC's Hadley Gamble during a panel session in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

"The region should not make the mistakes that so many other regions (have made), like in Europe, where there is such shallow participation by locals in investing in their own capital markets," he added.

His comments come at a time when some of the world's leading financiers are returning to Saudi Arabia after the oil-rich kingdom held some of the year's largest merger and bond deals.

International investors flocked to lend money to Saudi Arabia's hugely profitable state-owned oil company earlier this month.

Demand for Saudi Aramco's bonds surged above $100 billion, according to a source familiar with the situation, more than 10 times the $10 billion that had been expected.

Nonetheless, BlackRock's Fink said it would be "essential" for Middle East governments to drum up support from domestic investors too.

"I think that's going to be one of the critical characteristics to build and BlackRock will play a big role in both working with the domestic savers and building their retirement, plus bringing in international investing to invest side by side," Fink said.

Significant reform

Aramco's bond issue comes around six months after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate of Istanbul. Intelligence agencies in the U.S. have since concluded the Saudi crown prince ordered the killing of Khashoggi. Riyadh denies that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in the murder.

Khashoggi's killing sparked concerns that international investors would shun the kingdom, but bond buyers do not appear ready to overlook an investment opportunity in Saudi Arabia — the world's largest oil exporter.

VIDEO1:2601:26
Saudi finance minister: Working toward more consolidation, stronger insurance companies

"It is not only Saudi Arabia, the whole region is going through significant reform," Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said during the same panel session at The Financial Sector Conference on Wednesday.

"We have governments who are very determined to reform and to put their money where their mouth is and invest significantly in infrastructure services and technology for the years to come — and that provides significant opportunities for the private sector," he added.