June 17, 2020 / 7:26 PM / 19 days ago

Amazon launches Saudi Arabia shopping site despite CEO's dispute with kingdom

June 17 (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc on Wednesday launched a website for shoppers in Saudi Arabia, showing its continued business interests there despite a public dispute between Riyadh and the company’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos.

The website is a re-branding for Saudi customers of Souq.com, a Middle East e-commerce platform that Amazon acquired in 2017. Shoppers’ account information with Souq automatically transferred to the new address, amazon.sa, Amazon said on the site.

Amazon spokespeople did not immediately answer a request for comment on what prompted the move. The company last year similarly converted Souq’s website in the United Arab Emirates to a re-branded Amazon portal, amazon.ae.

The news indicates that a conflict involving Bezos and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman did not fully derail Amazon’s investment plans for the kingdom.

Bezos last year said the corporate owner of a U.S. tabloid that had published texts between him and his girlfriend was being investigated for alleged work on Saudi Arabia’s behalf.

The text leak kicked off a saga culminating in January of this year, when United Nations experts said they had information pointing to the “possible involvement” of Crown Prince Mohammed in an alleged plot to hack Bezos’ phone. Saudi Arabia called the suggestion “absurd.”

Bezos privately owns the Washington Post, which employed Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi columnist who was a critic of the crown prince and who was murdered in October 2018. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency believes Crown Prince Mohammed ordered the killing, sources previously told Reuters, while the crown prince last year denied the claim and said rogue operatives carried out the act.

The saga has fueled speculation that Amazon would pull back from doing business in Saudi Arabia. Reuters had reported in 2017 that Amazon’s cloud computing unit was leading discussions with Riyadh about an investment in the country. (Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco)

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