Billionaire Alwaleed Weighs IPOs for Four Seasons

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the Saudi billionaire with stakes in companies including Citigroup Inc., is weighing options including an initial public offering for Four Seasons Holdings Inc. and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts Inc.

The founder and Chairman of Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding Co., who took a 95 percent stake in the Four Seasons chain with Bill Gates, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV’s Erik Schatzker in Chicago yesterday he’s considering strategic options for the two companies including an IPO or merger.

“Our objective right now is to grow both companies and have a monetization process,” Alwaleed said at a conference hosted by Bloomberg LP. “The hotel industry is facing major upside right now. This may go on another three or four years. So there is a zone of opportunity for us right now.”

Hotel chains in the U.S. have benefited from demand in the lodging industry, with shares of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. and Marriott International Inc. reaching multi-year highs in May. Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., owned by Blackstone Group LP, this month filed to raise $1.25 billion in an initial public offering.

Alwaleed and Gates took Toronto-based luxury-hotel chain Four Seasons private in 2007 in a deal valued at $3.8 billion. The Saudi businessman led a group of investors, including Colony Capital LLC, in a $3.24 billion takeover of Fairmont in 2006.

Clear Views

Alwaleed currently has a 35 percent stake in Fairmont after cutting his holdings from 58 percent two years ago to bring in new investment from Voyager Partners Ltd. and pave the way for an IPO, Alwaleed said at the time.

Fairmont has more than 60 properties globally, including The Plaza in New York and Makkah Clock Royal Tower in Saudi Arabia.

Four Seasons has 91 properties in 38 countries, including the Four Seasons Hotel New York in Manhattan and Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris. The hotelier hired Allen Smith, the head of Prudential Real Estate Investors, as chief executive officer in August after a five-month search.

“Clearly we’ll defer to management but they have my views very clear,” Alwaleed said in the interview, adding that he had met executives at the two companies in Toronto in recent days.

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