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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/Getty Images

We don't yet know what happened last week to Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist who disappeared after visiting the Saudi Arabian consulate building in Istanbul. Turkish officials claim he was murdered, and that his body was removed, but the Saudis call such allegations preposterous propaganda, and that Khashoggi left unharmed shortly after arriving.

Why it matters, beyond the obvious: If the Turks are right — and that remains a big if — it could have repercussions for some of the world's largest prospective financial deals.

  • Aramco's IPO: The largest IPO in history was supposed to take place in 2018, but Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman tells Bloomberg that the delay should not be misinterpreted as a cancellation. Instead, the new target date is 2020, with MBS saying a strategic decision was made to have Aramco first obtain a control stake in Saudi petrochemical giant Sabic, with the IPO to follow one year later (i.e., 2020).
  • SoftBank Vision Fund: MBS said in that same interview that the Saudi Public Investment Fund plans to commit another $45 billion or so to SoftBank's next Vision Fund.

Both of these deals are, in part, predicated on beliefs in MBS as a reformer. Were the Turkish allegation substantiated, then it could become much tougher for Western bankers or exchanges to work on the Aramco IPO, or for Masayoshi Son to accept Saudi as the ongoing capital cornerstone of its evolution into an investment company.

What's next: Expect more clarity on how this is playing among the global business elite in two weeks — pending definitive resolution on Khashoggi's fate — when we learn who chooses to attend Saudi's second annual Future Investment Initiative conference.

Go deeper

11 mins ago - Health

Health care workers feel stress, burnout more than a year into the pandemic

Photo: Steve Pfost/Newsday RM via Getty Images

More than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, some 3 in 10 health care professionals say they've considered leaving the profession, citing burnout and stress, a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll out Thursday indicates.

Why it matters: Studies throughout the pandemic have indicated rising rates of depression and trauma among health care workers, group that is no longer seeing the same public displays of gratitude as during the onset of the pandemic.

Russia announces end to massive troop buildup near Ukraine

Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (L) with President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russia's defense minister said Thursday that massive military exercises near the border with Ukraine had been completed, and that he had ordered troops to return to their permanent bases by May 1, according to state media.

Why it matters: Tens of thousands of troops and heavy military equipment had been moved to the border of eastern Ukraine and the annexed territory of Crimea over the last month, sparking fears of a potential Russian invasion.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
52 mins ago - Economy & Business

Stock buybacks are kicking back into high gear

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It was expected that with the economy improving and company balance sheets already loaded with cash, U.S. firms would slow down their debt issuance in 2021 after setting records in 2020. But just the opposite has happened.

Why it matters: Companies generally issue bonds for one of two reasons — because they're worried about not having enough cash to cover their expenses or because they want to lever up and make risky bets.