Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaled bin Talal is still under ‘hotel arrest’ at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh, and there is growing uncertainty over his media-related business empire. In particular the Rotana movies-to-music operation as well as various satellite channels beaming out over the Middle East.
An FT headlines summed up the problems for Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Holdings (KH) business. “Engulfed in a crisis” said the newspaper, and certainly in the 5 weeks since the prince was “detained” by Saudi Arabian authorities the value of KH has crashed by about a fifth, to ‘just’ $8.5 billion, and a share price of (Saudi Riyals) 8.57.
Immediately prior to the prince’s detention its share price was a much healthier SAR 10.40 on the country’s Tadawel stock market. However, to place this fall into context it must be remembered that exactly a year ago shares were trading at SAR 12.60, and back in May 2014 they reached a ‘high’ point of SAR 28.00.
Other than one publicly supportive statement from Microsoft’s Bill Gates, the rest of the financial community have been mostly silent on the prince’s difficult predicament.
An online statement from KH’s CEO, Talal Al Maiman, a month ago reminded investors that the business has $12.5 billion under management, and “enjoys a solid financial position underpinned by a prudent and conservative funding plan”.
The FT reports that the KH head office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, is currently a “black hole of information” and that observers suggest that there’s no meaningful activity going on at the company. The FT suggests that some executives close to the prince are moving assets offshore as a preventative move against sequestration.