Charlie Rose Talks to Prince Al-Waleed Bin TalalBy
What’s your perspective on the global economy today?
There’s no doubt that Europe is a time bomb because you see the economies of all those countries are not doing very well. The annual budget deficits are high. The cumulative debt is very high, above 100 percent [of GDP] in certain countries. And Greece … we are waiting to witness what will happen there.
Do you share some of the optimism here toward the U.S. recovery, despite the paralysis in Washington?
This shows the resilience of the U.S. With all the bickering that’s happening between Obama and the Republicans in the House, still the U.S. was able to grow 2.8 percent and have unemployment go down to 8.3 percent. And the economic factors are up, home sales are up, so there’s major improvement right now in the U.S. economy. I definitely believe that the so-called American decline is greatly exaggerated. I think the U.S. faced some difficulties, but it’s way ahead of everybody else. Look at where the innovation is. Look what happened when the United States’ debt was downgraded? Interest rates went down, not up.
How are you feeling these days about your sizable stake in Citigroup and your relationship with CEO Vikram Pandit?
I just saw Vikram before he left for the Far East, and the situation is very promising. He’s optimistic about 2012, ’13, and ’14. And the proof is that he announced that Citibank will begin getting some capital back to its shareholders, either through a share buyback program or through dividends. I encouraged him to do both, obviously. I think getting back some capital to the shareholders is very important, and I think he’s on the right track.
So Pandit’s been a good CEO, and he has your support?
He’s very low-profile. He’s been working internally. It’s a bad situation, but that man is looking for growth. He’s doing a spectacular job … and he was able to stabilize the situation.
Another major investment of yours is in Apple. Many people wonder about Apple following Steve Jobs’s death. Do you?
The legacy of Steve Jobs and the strength of Steve Jobs is that he established a company that’s clearly firing on all cylinders and clicking very well. For the next five, six quarters, this will still be the legacy of Steve Jobs. I think maybe two years from now we will see what happens with the new management.
Then there’s your investment in News Corp. What’s your stake?
We own 7 percent of News Corp.
Tell me how you reacted to the phone-hacking scandal and whether you think it will have a real impact on the company.
My relationship with the Murdoch family goes back for many years. I just met with James today, and I’m meeting Rupert tomorrow. So they are not only my allies but friends, also. I’m not only invested in News Corp; they also invested in my biggest media company. In an empire like that, extending over five continents, that’s involved in so many areas of media, inevitably you will have a rotten apple somewhere. And that rotten apple was excised.
James Murdoch has had to go back before Parliament, and there’s some question as to whether he is still Rupert’s heir apparent.
I’m still supporting James Murdoch. But publicly Rupert Murdoch said that the successor—God forbid something happens to him—will be the COO of the company [Chase Carey].
So now there’s Twitter, where you have a $300 million investment. How did that happen?
Kingdom Holding, my company, has invested—a long time ago—in Apple, Amazon, EBay, and many others, so we are not new to that business. Investing in Twitter is a continuation of us looking at business opportunities at the early stage. I believe Twitter, right now, is just finishing the venture capital phase, getting into a maturity level. We believe that we came at the right time. The potential for Twitter is spectacular and great.
Why is that?
Already they have 100 million users and more than 250 million tweets every day. This could go dramatically higher.
It’s said that you made your Twitter investment after you saw Russian investor Yuri Milner do the same.
No. I don’t even know that name. Who is this guy?