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29 February 2024

Alwaleed reviews portfolio after loss

Prince Alwaleed (SUPPLIED)

By Reuters

Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is reviewing his investment portfolio after his Kingdom Holding posted a record loss in the fourth quarter.

"Kingdom Holding Company is working on rebalancing its investments and to redirect them," Asharq Al Awsat newspaper quoted him as saying at a press conference for the Saudi media.

Alwaleed did not elaborate but Al Eqtisadiah quoted him saying that his investments will focus more on "Saudi Arabia and the region" and he cited particular interest in real estate.

Kingdom Holding's spokeswoman Heba Fatani could not be reached for comment.

Kingdom Holding, in which Alwaleed holds a 94 per cent stake, shocked investors after it announced a $8.26 billion (Dh30bn) loss for the fourth quarter due to a dive in the value of its assets, which include a substantial stake in Citigroup.

Alwaleed said little about his company's stake in Citigroup, which accounted for more than 40 per cent of the total value of Kingdom Holding's assets when the latter was selling shares to the Saudi public in July, 2007.

"The US Government has given great support [to Citi] and we hope these measures will soon stabilise the bank," Al Hayat newspaper quoted him as saying.

The value of Kingdom's assets fell to SAR50bn (Dh50bn) by the end of 2008 down from some SAR90bn in July, 2007, board member Ahmad Halawani said.

Kingdom owned 3.6 per cent of the ailing US bank in July, 2007. Five months later, Prince Alwaleed said he was among investors, including the Kuwait Investment Authority, that agreed to sink at least $5bn into Citigroup as it scrambled for capital.

Halawani said the fourth-quarter losses were the result of liquidations of "some international and local" assets in 2008 and a $4bn provision for impairment losses on its investment portfolio.

Halawani declined to say if Citigroup shares were part of the assets the company had shed. Alwaleed was the world's 19th richest person with a $21bn fortune according to Forbes latest survey.

He originally paid $2.75 per Citigroup share, adjusted for stock splits, he said in a Fortune magazine interview published in November, 2007. Prince Alwaleed came to the bank's aid in 1991, when he invested $590 million in Citigroup predecessor Citicorp, which needed cash as it struggled with Latin American loan losses and a collapse in US real-estate prices.