x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Prince Alwaleed holds talks in capital on opportunities

The Saudi prince discusses "potential business collaboration" with government officials and business leaders during a visit to Abu Dhabi.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud of Saudi Arabia discussed "potential business collaboration" with government officials and business leaders during a visit to Abu Dhabi last week. The visit came at a critical time for Prince Alwaleed, who last week used part of his personal fortune to support Kingdom Holding, the publicly listed Saudi firm in which he holds a stake of 95 per cent.

Prince Alwaleed last Tuesday transferred the majority of his prize stake in the American banking giant Citigroup to Kingdom Holding, saying it would help the company "withstand the negative repercussions of the global economic crisis". Kingdom Holding also said it would reduce its share capital by almost half in an effort to increase its borrowing capacity and return to rising profits. The company reported a profit decline of 54 per cent in the third quarter of last year from the same period a year earlier as property markets stalled and returns on investments faltered.

Prince Alwaleed was listed as the 19th-richest person in the world by Forbes magazine in 2008 with a fortune of more than US$20 billion (Dh73.5bn). Among the officials Prince Alwaleed met with on his trip to Abu Dhabi last Wednesday was Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Presidential Affairs and the chairman of the International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC). Sheikh Mansour also owns the English Premier League club Manchester City and the Al-Jazira Sports and Cultural Club in Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Mansour "warmly welcomed" the prince for discussions involving "local, regional and international economic and investment issues, and future potential business collaboration", the prince's statement said. Both Sheikh Mansour and Prince Alwaleed have played a role in helping foreign banks weather the financial crisis. Sheikh Mansour made an investment of £2bn (Dh11.76bn) through IPIC in Barclays, the British bank, to shore up its balance sheet at the height of the financial crisis. That stake was sold last summer, reportedly for a profit of £1.5bn.

Prince Alwaleed has had a bumpier ride recently with Citigroup, which he first bought in 1991 and in which he is the largest individual shareholder. Citigroup shares have declined by more than 90 per cent since 2007, when they traded at more than $55 per share. Citigroup shares closed on Friday at $3.59. In part because of the price declines, Citigroup is also in a dispute with the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) in which the sovereign wealth fund claims an investment of $7.5bn in 2007 was misrepresented. There have been reports that ADAI is seeking damages of more than $4bn.

Prince Alwaleed also met with Khaldoon al Mubarak, the chief executive of Mubadala Development, Abu Dhabi's strategic investment arm. They discussed the prince's "solid regional presence in the various sectors, including real estate, hotels and media". Prince Alwaleed owns numerous property, hospitality and media companies, including Rotana Media, which is said to be an investment target of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Rotana was one of the early partners in Abu Dhabi's media free zone.

Sheikh Mansour is also involved in the media through his ownership of I-Media, which launched the UAE's first Arabic-language daily financial newspaper last year. afitch@thenational.ae