Saudi Arabian rights activist Samar Badawi (middle) being recognised in 2012 (US State Department)

SNC-Lavalin warns over Canada-Saudi human-rights standoff

10 August 2018 | By GCR Staff 3 Comments

Canadian engineering giant SNC-Lavalin has warned of financial impacts if the surprise diplomatic standoff between Canada and Saudi Arabia over human rights continues.

Saudi Arabia is the company’s third biggest market outside Canada, netting it revenues of nearly a billion Canadian dollars (C$992m) last year.

The engineer regularly wins contracts in the oil and utilities sectors there.

But its share price plunged when a tweet on 3 August by Canada’s foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland sparked an angry response in the kingdom.

Freeland called for the release of women’s rights activist Samar Badawi (pictured), sister of jailed dissident writer Raif Badawi, each of whom have been given 10-year jail sentences, with 1,000 lashes, for “insulting Islam”.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau backed Freeland.

The Saudi foreign ministry called the statement “a major, unacceptable affront to the kingdom's laws and judicial process”.

The ministry gave the Canadian ambassador 24 hours to leave the country, and the Saudi government has frozen all new trade with Canada, although it said oil shipments would not be affected.

In response to questions from investors, analysts and media, SNC-Lavalin on 8 August issued a statement confirming that if the standoff goes on, it would have a financial impact.

“We are studying the possible implications of this situation and its possible impact on current or proposed transactions between SNC-Lavalin Group companies and customers controlled by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the company said.

“We are not able at this time to fully assess the effect on the SNC-Lavalin Group’s current and future business opportunities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“If a widespread commercial embargo on Canadian commercial interests in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were to be implemented on a prolonged basis, there will be an impact on our future financial performance.”

The company added: “We will update our shareholders as the situation develops and we are better able to assess the effect on SNC-Lavalin.”

Image: Saudi Arabian rights activist Samar Badawi (middle) being recognised at the 2012 International Women of Courage Awards, with then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama (US State Department)