New York, Riyadh, Dubai: Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal, just weeks after his release from detention in Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton, is hunting for deals again and planning to reshape his investment empire.
The prince, in his first interview since leaving the hotel seven weeks ago, told Bloomberg Television he’s working with advisers including Goldman Sachs Group Inc to find investments as large as $3 billion (Dh11.01 billion) for Kingdom Holding Co, his publicly traded investment firm.
He also said he’s likely to split the company’s $13 billion of assets through a spin-off of its domestic property and other holdings.
I understand it’s not going to be easy at all — some people in business community will be doubtful, will say, ‘What’s going on?’ However, I assure them that everything is normal and we are functioning as we were before...”
- Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal | Chairman of Kingdom Holdings
“It will take some time as we are still developing that matter,” the 63-year-old nephew of King Salman said at his Riyadh apartment. “Our CEO is thinking in these terms.”
Al Waleed was the most prominent among hundreds of Saudi businessmen, government officials and princes who were swept up in November in what the government called a crackdown on corruption. Ranked the world’s 64th richest man and long the public face of the Saudi royal family to foreign executives and investors, Al Waleed made clear he wants to reassure partners that his business empire is intact and fully functioning after 83 days of confinement in the Ritz-Carlton.
“I understand it’s not going to be easy at all — some people in business community will be doubtful, will say, ‘What’s going on?’,” Al Waleed said.
“However, I assure them that everything is normal and we are functioning as we were before and we welcome them to come here to see what we’re doing in Saudi Arabia and life is back to normal.”
While the prince refused to provide the terms of his release, he described a “confirmed understanding” with Saudi authorities. Signing the document left him free to function normally with “zero guilt” and “zero conditions.”
Al Waleed gained international fame in the 1990s as a savvy investor and occasionally drew comparisons to Warren Buffett. Kingdom Holding’s current investments include stakes in Citigroup Inc, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Twitter Inc.
Its domestic holdings, most notably a one kilometre-high tower under construction in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, make up about half of Kingdom Holding’s assets. Al Waleed said they could be spun off into a real estate investment trust.
In the meantime, Kingdom Holding is seeking to raise $1 billion to $2 billion in debt. Al Waleed described that as “firepower” for local, regional or international investments of $1 billion to $3 billion.
“Right now we are in discussions with certain companies in the US for certain deals,” the prince said. “Although the market right now in the US is — I’d not say overvalued — but prices are not where we would wish them to be.”
Kingdom Holding shares, which trade on Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul exchange, closed 0.2 per cent higher at 9.08 riyals on Tuesday. The company’s stock has dropped almost 12 per cent since Al Waleed’s November 4 detention, giving the company a market capitalisation of about $9 billion. The prince holds a 95 per cent stake.