One of the best players developing the high-speed transportation is attracting big interest from investors in Saudi Arabia, according to the chairman.
“There is a big interest in Hyperloop in Saudi Arabia. I think when the right time comes, we will restart talking to Saudi Arabia about their plans and how Hyperloop can fit in those plans,” ,” Ahmed bin Sulayem told CNBC’s Dan Murphy in an interview Monday.
Sulayem is a group chairman and chief executive of Dubai-headquartered port operator DP World, which is a major investor in Virgin Hyperloop One. He became Richard Branson’s successor shortly after the British billionaire left his role as chairman of the firm.
Branson left the position last month, saying that the company would need a “more hands-on” chairperson, and that it would be hard for him to continue in the role because of the constraints resulting from his work in philanthropy and Virgin Group’s different kinds of business units.
When the executive left the company, it was followed uncertainty around whether Virgin Hyperloop One would continue to conduct business with Saudi Arabia, which would make him owe to Branson distancing himself from the country after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Branson suspended negotiations over a proposed $1 billion investment in Virgin’s space companies, Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit, after Khashoggi’s death.
A Financial Times report last month added to that uncertainty. It was said that Saudi Arabia had cancelled a planned deal to conduct a feasibility study with Virgin Hyperloop One. However, CNBC contradicted that later, saying the firm was still in talks with the Saudis to reach a deal.
For Sulayem’s part, he said that any talks over a Saudi deal with Virgin Hyperloop One would likely come after the completion of a project in India. He said it was better to concentrate on “a project we have in hand” in India, and then look to push expansion into other markets.
“We had good discussions with Saudi Arabia and they had interest in utilizing Hyperloop. This is something we’re going to discuss with them hopefully in the next few months,” said Sulayem.
Multiple firms are trying out their own versions of hyperloop technology. The technology, which involves pods that are propelled through low-pressure tubes at ultra-fast speeds, was first envisioned by Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk in 2013.
Musk’s SpaceX and The Boring Company are working to implement hyperloop systems in the U.S., while Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and TransPod are also competing to build their own versions of the technology.
Sulayem also said the firm’s technology was “very interesting” and “could transform really the way people travel en masse.”
“The company has I think a good opportunity today because they have completed more than anyone else in this field and hopefully India will be the first one,” Sulayem added. The company is also trying to find to build its hyperloop transportation system in the United Arab Emirates. It also released a deal with DP World earlier this year to create a hyperloop that transports cargo at ultra-fast speeds.
Meanwhile, Branson told CNBC last month that rides on the company’s hyperloop would cost “no more than a high-speed trainline ticket.”