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NCB Capital funds buy majority stake in major Saudi publisher

NCB Capital funds buy majority stake in major Saudi publisher

The new investors do not plan any changes to the overall “strategy of the company and have no plans to buy rest of the outstanding shares,” a statement said

Two funds owned by NCB Capital bought over 50 per cent of Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), publisher of pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat and one of the Middle East’s largest media companies.

The off-market transactions were disclosed after market close on Sunday, just hours after an announcement from Kingdom Holding, the investment firm owned by billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, of plans to sell its 29.9 per cent stake in SRMG for SAR 837.2m ($223.3m).

The new investors do not plan any changes to the overall “strategy of the company and have no plans to buy rest of the outstanding shares,” SRMG added in its statement.

Besides the London-based Asharq al-Awsat, SRMG owns Saudi newspapers Al-Iqtisadiyah and Arab News and has traditionally enjoyed close ties to the ruling Al Saud family through a 6.84 per cent stake held in the name of Faisal Ahmad Bin Salman, the fifth son of King Salman.

The funds of NCB Capital, the investment banking arm of Saudi’s largest bank National Commercial Bank, acquired 55.21 per cent of SRMG, the company’s statement said, split between NCB Capital Fund 13 with 29.9 per cent and NCB Capital Fund 4 with 25.3 percent.

No values or names of sellers were given in the SRMG statement, although bourse data showed nine private transactions overall on Sunday at the SAR 35 per share price disclosed by Kingdom Holding earlier in the day.

That level was almost double the last trade on Wednesday before the stock was suspended by the regulator ahead of news from major shareholders.

This would value the company at around SAR 2.8bn ($746.7m), according to Reuters calculations.

Trading on SRMG will resume on Monday, the Capital Market Authority announced in a separate post-trading statement.

KINGDOM HOLDING

Kingdom, which sold 23.9 million shares, would use proceeds from the sale for other corporate projects and investment opportunities, while the financial impact of the sale will be reflected in fourth-quarter earnings.

This is the second divestment in the media sector this year for Alwaleed, who sold most of his stake in News Corp in February. Alwaleed also owns a stake in Saudi media conglomerate Rotana Group, which owns the Arab world’s largest record label.

Alwaleed’s interests have expanded to Bahrain, where he founded Alarab TV station. The channel was suspended just hours after its launch on February 1, amid a crackdown by the Bahraini government which said the TV channel had not done enough to combat “extremism and terrorism”

Kingdom has minority stakes in some of the world’s top companies, including Citigroup and microblogging site Twitter.

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