x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Profile: Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia

The US-educated prince, who is considered among the world’s richest men, was among 11 princes and 38 current or former senior Saudi officials detained in an anti-corruption probe

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Saudi billionaire and founder of Kingdom Holding, was among those detained during Saudi Arabia's anti-corruption crackdown. Mohammad Obaidi / Bloomberg
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Saudi billionaire and founder of Kingdom Holding, was among those detained during Saudi Arabia's anti-corruption crackdown. Mohammad Obaidi / Bloomberg

Born in Jeddah in 1955, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is the son of former Saudi communications minister Prince Talal and the grandson of two of the Arab world’s most celebrated figures – King Abdulaziz Al Saud, founder and the first ruler of Saudi Arabia and the first Lebanese prime minister Riad El Solh.

The US-educated prince, who is considered among the world’s richest men, was among 11 princes and 38 current or former senior Saudi officials detained on orders from a new anti-corruption committee headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Reuters reported. Allegations against Prince Alwaleed include money laundering, bribery and extorting officials, a Saudi official told Reuters

In March 2016, Forbes listed Prince Alwaleed as the 41st richest man in the world, with an estimated net worth of US$17.3 billion (Dh63.5bn). Bloomberg estimates his personal wealth at $19bn. His wealth has declined by more than $700 million so far this year, according to the index.

Prince Alwaleed owns 95 per cent of Riyadh-listed Kingdom Holding Company, the primary investment conglomerate through which he holds substantial interests in companies from across the hospitality, real estate, media, broadcasting, entertainment, information technology, communications, fashion retail, supermarkets, health and education sectors.

He rose to prominence in Saudi Arabia as an entrepreneur with investments in Riyadh’s property market in the late 1970s and early 1980s and later diversified his portfolio to include stakes in the kingdom’s banking sector.

In 1991 he burst on to the international banking investment scene when he acquired a significant stake in then ailing Citibank (at the time Citicorp). Kingdom Holding has held on to the stock in the ensuing years including during the bank’s 98 per cent plummet during the global financial crisis. The group's other holdings include stakes in News Corporation, Apple, Ebay and Twitter, as well as in ride-hailing apps Lyft and Careem, hotel operator Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, the Savoy Hotel in London and the Hotel George V in Paris. Outside of Kingdom Holding, Prince Alwaleed owns real estate in Saudi Arabia, the majority of Arabic-language entertainment firm Rotana, and other assets.

In September, he agreed to buy a 16.2 per cent in Banque Saudi Fransi from Credit Agricole SA in a deal valued at $1.5bn.

Prince Alwaleed is also a philanthropist, with much of his charitable activity centred on educational initiatives aimed at bridging gaps between Western and Islamic communities. Alwaleed Philanthropies comprises three organisations: Alwaleed Philanthropies Global, Alwaleed Philanthropies Lebanon, and Alwaleed Philanthropies Saudi Arabia. He claims to have supported projects in more than 90 countries across the world over the past 35 years.

The series of orders announcing the new anti-corruption committee also detailed the removal of two prominent ministers from their posts: Prince Miteb bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, minister of national guard, and Adel bin Mohammed Faqih, minister of economy and planning. The decrees also outlined a cabinet reshuffle, namely the key ministries of the national guard, and economy and planning. Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, son of the late Saudi King Abdullah, is to be replaced by Prince Khalid bin Abdulaziz bin Mohammed bin Ayyaf Al Muqren, the Saudi Press Agency said.

By midday on Sunday, Kingdom Holding’s share price had plummeted by 9.92 per cent to 9.26 Saudi Riyals, its lowest since 10 March 2009, when it stood at 6.2 Saudi Riyals. Sunday’s share price was below the trading average of 14.27 for the period since March 2009.

Kingdom Holding on Sunday also announced its interim financial results for the three months to 30 September, reporting a net profit of 247.5 million riyals, a 14.4 per cent increase from the previous quarter and a 30 per cent drop from 354.9 million riyals in the same period of 2016.