Alphabet and the government of Saudi Arabia are presently in the process of negotiating an unprecedented technology partnership that would see the Mountain View, California-based conglomerate assist the monarchy in building a number of data centers in the Middle Eastern country, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing sources with knowledge of the talks. While the theoretical move would help Alphabet establish a presence in Saudi Arabia, it's presently unclear to what extent is the company hoping to spread its influence as insiders weren't able to clarify whether the data centers over which negotiations are now being held are meant to be owned by Google's parent or Riyadh, i.e. the House of Saud. Any joint venture the two may agree on would officially be presented as a partnership between Alphabet and Saudi Aramco, the national oil company, according to the same report.
Google co-founder and Alphabet Chief Executive Officer Larry Page is said to have been personally involved in the talks that started in late 2017. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is reportedly supportive of the deal due to his general policy stances and high opinion of the Silicon Valley but it's still unclear which party initiated the negotiations. The Prince previously publicly talked about his plan to turn Saudi Arabia into a major tech hub in the Middle East so as to help the country transition away from its dependence on oil and ensure its economy enjoys greater long-term sustainability, with that program being referred to as "Vision 2030." The plan has been officially announced in early spring of 2016 and spans more initiatives than just those related to the technology industry, though a major venture capital push and a Silicon Valley-inspired tech hub are some of its more high-profile goals.
The direction started with Vision 2030 is understood to have played a part in Riyadh's decision to greenlight Amazon's recent acquisition of Middle Eastern e-commerce giant SOUQ, with the Seattle, Washington-based juggernaut recently being involved in talks similar to the ones that are now underway between Alphabet and Saudi Arabia, sources suggest. Amazon is reportedly interested in launching its cloud business in the country, with Google's parent possibly pursuing a similar endeavor. Alphabet and Riyadh's negotiations are still said to be in a relatively early phase, though the project they're discussing is reportedly large enough to warrant a listing at the Saudi stock exchange should it materialize.