Billionaire Alwaleed Sells $190 Million News Corp Stake

Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, Saudi billionaire and founder of Kingdom Holding Co., speaks during the Bloomberg Year Ahead: 2014 conference in Chicago on Nov. 20, 2013.

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal’s investment firm sold a stake valued at almost $190 million in News Corp., reducing its holding in Rupert Murdoch’s media company to about 1 percent.

Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding cut its ownership of Class B shares to 2 million from 13.2 million, or 6.6 percent, it said in a statement to the Saudi bourse Wednesday. The sale generated 705 million riyals ($188 million), which will be used for other investments, it said. Through Kingdom, Prince Alwaleed holds stakes in companies including Citigroup Inc. and Twitter Inc.

Alwaleed, who had the second-largest holding of voting stock in News Corp. after the Murdoch family, has been a staunch ally of the media baron. He publicly supported the family’s running of News Corp. amid phone-hacking revelations in 2011 that saw the New York-based company abandon its bid to take over the rest of European pay-TV operator Sky Plc.

“The reduction of KHC’s holding in News Corp. has been decided in the context of a general portfolio review,” Alwaleed said in a statement on Kingdom’s website. “We remain firm believers in News Corp.’s competent management, led by CEO Robert Thomson, and are fully supportive of Rupert Murdoch and his family.”

News Corp. declined to comment. The shares fell 0.5 percent to $15.05 at 9:40 a.m. New York time.

The sale won’t affect Kingdom’s 6.6 percent holding of 21st Century Fox Inc., worth about $1.7 billion, it said.

Hacking Allegations

News Corp., owner of the Wall Street Journal, HarperCollins book publisher and real-estate websites, fell 13 percent last year. The company split from Fox in 2013, not long after allegations that a Murdoch-owned tabloid hacked into the voicemail of a murdered schoolgirl.

Earlier this week, News Corp. and Fox said the U.S. Justice Department won’t prosecute either company after an investigation into the hacking scandal and payments to public officials in the U.K.

Kingdom, which owns half of the Savoy hotel in London and is backing a project to build the world’s tallest tower in Jeddah, is planning to sell shares in a “significant” number of assets, Chief Financial Officer Mohammed Fahmy said in an interview last week. The company is considering offerings on the Saudi stock exchange and internationally, he said.

Kingdom declined 0.6 percent to 18.96 riyals on Wednesday in Riyadh. The shares have lost 21 percent in the past 12 months compared with a 5.1 percent advance for Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index.

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