Amazon launches Saudi Arabia shopping site despite CEO's dispute with kingdom
By Jeffrey Dastin
(Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc launched a website for buyers in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday that outlines continuing business interests despite a public dispute between Riyadh and the company's managing director, Jeff Bezos.
The website is re-branded for Saudi customers from Souq.com, an e-commerce platform for the Middle East that Amazon acquired in 2017. The account information of the buyers at Souq is automatically transferred to the new address amazon.sa, Amazon said on the website. The company also converted Souq's website in the United Arab Emirates to a renamed portal called amazon.ae last year.
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The news shows that a conflict between Bezos and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is not derailing Amazon's investment plans for the kingdom. In a press release, Amazon announced that a nationwide operating network would be established. The presence already includes 14 warehouses, more than 1,400 employees and a strategic supply partnership with Saudi Post.
The release of leaked text messages between Bezos and his girlfriend in early 2019 sparked a dispute between the richest man in the world and Saudi Arabia. Bezos 'chief of security said last year that the kingdom was the source of the news, and in January United Nations experts said they had information indicating Crown Prince Mohammed's "possible involvement" in an alleged conspiracy to hack Bezos' phone. Saudi Arabia called the proposal "absurd".
Bezos privately owns the Washington Post, in which Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi columnist and critic of the crown prince who was murdered in October 2018, was employed. U.S. intelligence believes Crown Prince Mohammed ordered the murder, sources told Reuters earlier, while the Crown Prince denied the allegation last year, saying that rogue workers carried out the crime.
The saga had sparked speculation that Amazon would withdraw from business in the country.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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