Exclusive: Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding Plans New Digital Acquisition

Saudi-based Kingdom Holding Company, which owns a stake in Twitter, is planning a new digital acquisition, its chairman tells Gulf Business in an exclusive interview.



Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud , the chairman and founder of Saudi Arabia-based Kingdom Holding Company, revealed to Gulf Business that the firm is currently looking to make an acquisition in the digital sector.

“Specifically in digital, we are looking at something, but I can’t reveal further details,” Prince Alwaleed said in an exclusive interview.

“Kingdom Holding is a very diversified company; we have invested in more than 12 arenas including hotel management, hotel real estate, real estate, aviation, petrochemicals, financial services, media and publishing, entertainment, private equity, health and education, consumers sector and agriculture. So we are always looking for good opportunities in all these industries,” he added.

Kingdom Holding invested $300 million in social networking company Twitter in 2011, and according to Prince Alwaleed, the company is rapidly heading towards profitability.

“Twitter is a fast-rising growth company in the social media arena. People these days are getting hooked on to tweeting, and the clear objective right now is to reach at least half a billion active users.

“If you have half a billion active users, it means that you are going to have around two billion tweets a day since the average number of tweets per person per day is four.

“So if this is monetised well with advertising, you can see the growth of that company in revenues and profits,” he said.

However, he did not disclose the timeline for when Twitter will start seeing profits.

“I don’t have any inside information but I can only quote what the CEO and the CFO of Twitter are saying – they say Twitter is profitable and on track to reaching its goal.”

Prince Alwaleed also expressed great confidence in his investment in Citigroup, which saw the appointment of a new CEO late last year.

“[Ex-CEO] Vikram Pandit did an excellent job in stabilising Citigroup after the problems it faced in 2008/2009. He has done a good job in getting Citi to be profitable for at least 10 consecutive quarters.

“After five years, the board of directors decided to replace him with another person, Micheal Corbat, who is also a very capable leader. I am really optimistic about the future of Citigroup, because it is the only global bank in the world,” he said.

“It is the only bank that has a presence in more than 140 countries across the world and it is the only bank that really did not retrench and get smaller like its competitors, Standard Chartered and HSBC, which really shrank during the crisis.

“The group continues to show good profitability quarter after quarter, and I am definitely very confident about my investment in the bank,” he said.

Kingdom Holding, which also has stakes in Apple and News Corp, ended 2012 on a positive note, with its share price more than doubling to SAR20.90 per share.

“Relatively speaking, 2012 was a very a good year for Kingdom Holding as we continued our investments and continued on our growth path. We have shown 10 per cent growth in our profitability year-on-year [as of the third quarter of 2012],” said Prince Alwaleed.

“For 2013, we have a lot of ongoing projects,” he added.

The complete interview with Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal will be featured in the February 2013 edition of Gulf Business.