Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL)
stores could begin opening in Saudi Arabia as soon as 2019 as the country attempts to move towards a more futuristic look. Saudi Arabian officials are currently in licensing discussions with Apple and Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) in an endeavor to attract more tech companies into the country. Apple is rumored to be talking with SAGIA, Saudi Arabia’s foreign investment authority, to reach a licensing agreement that is expected to reach a conclusion by February 2018.
Previous regulations in Saudi Arabian government imposed heavy limitations on foreign ownership of businesses which prevented companies like Apple and Amazon from gaining entering the country. However, the country has realized the need to diversify the country’s dependence on oil due to falling crude oil prices within the past two years. Signs of Saudi Arabia attempting to diversify its dependence showed when the country lifted a ban put in place in 2013 on services that provided access to calling someone over the internet, including the popular Apple feature, FaceTime.
The first steps of expansion into the country have already been made, as the latest Apple Maps additions include traffic data for the capitals of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as populated cities. These Middle Eastern countries can now be given real time data on road closures and roads with heavy traffic. Maps has yet support turn-by-turn navigation in these countries, although it is certainly possible that this feature will be introduced to the countries soon.