Prince Alwaleed’s ‘Forever’ Stock Stakes Not Untouchableby and
Saudi billionaire says Citi, Twitter stakes possibly for sale
Shift in approach comes amid financial changes in kingdom
Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said all of his stakes in public companies including Citigroup Inc. are potentially for sale, reversing a longstanding policy that some of his most prized shareholdings were “forever.”
Kingdom Holding Co., the Saudi prince’s investment firm, has held Citigroup shares since 1991, according to its website, a span that included its 98 percent plunge during the financial crisis. It’s since rallied 436 percent. It’s had Apple Inc. for almost 20 years and EBay Inc. for 16 years. Kingdom Holding, in which the prince owns a 95 percent stake, has about 5 percent of Twitter valued around $1 billion, he said.
“Everything’s on the table,” Alwaleed said in an interview with Bloomberg TV in Riyadh. “If our interest requires Kingdom Holding to divest from any company, sure we’ll do it. There’s nothing called forever.”
The shifting approach comes as the country battles slowing growth and slumping oil income that have sparked unprecedented social, political and financial change. The world’s biggest crude exporter is seeking to rein in a budget deficit that reached about 15 percent of gross domestic product last year. Authorities also have introduced a package of austerity measures, including cuts to public-sector wages and energy subsidies.
Economic growth in Saudi Arabia is expected to slow to 1.3 percent this year, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists, the lowest level since the 2009 global recession. Alwaleed also suggested that the kingdom, “as a last resort,” may need to end the riyal’s fixed valuation against the dollar.
Alwaleed said it is “too early” to comment on how Donald Trump’s surprise election win will impact his U.S. investments, though he added the financial markets have reacted “euphorically.”
“We are not jumpy investors, we are long-term,” he said. “We go with a rifle gun approach, never a shotgun approach. It’s only been one week.”
The S&P 500 Index has gained 1.8 percent since the Nov. 8 vote, with bank shares pacing advances. Citigroup has surged 9.2 percent as global bonds sold off on speculation Trump’s policies will spur economic growth and inflation. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at four consecutive records and small caps in the Russell 2000 Index reached the first all-time high in 18 months.
Alwaleed specifically addressed his investment in Twitter, the microblogging site that was said to be up for sale recently, saying the chief executive officer needs more time to turn around the company.
“Jack Dorsey took over a year ago and he just introduced many initiatives related to sport, NFL and otherwise, we have to give him some time,” Alwaleed said. “I still believe that” Twitter has a bright future, he said. “We are long-term investors.”