Time: July 01, 2018
LONDON: Billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has revealed plans for a string of new investments in his first interview since being detained at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh.
Speaking exclusively to Bloomberg Television, he said that life was now “back to normal” as he gave an intriguing inside account of his detention as part of the Saudi government’s high profile anti-corruption drive.
The Kingdom Holding chief was one of the most high-profile figures to be detained at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel as part of a widespread anti-corruption drive.
In a television interview with Bloomberg, a fast-talking Alwaleed said: “I am for the anti-corruption that took place in Saudi Arabia. Now, unfortunately, I was added to that group. But fortunately, I’m out of it right now and life is back to normal.”
The prince, once dubbed the Warren Buffett of Saudi Arabia, was released from the Ritz-Carlton hotel in early January.
He was among about 350 suspects rounded up since Nov. 4, including some of the Kingdom’s most senior businessmen. As a major investor in several global corporations, his detention sent shockwaves through boardrooms around the world.
Now, after being released, he wants to reassure investors of continuity across his sprawling business empire. “I need to clear my name,” he said. “And to clear up a lot of lies.”
Specifically, Alwaleed rejected claims that he was tortured, detained in a prison and was forced to abandon work on the world’s tallest tower under construction in Jeddah, and instead transfer workers to the recently announced Neom mega-project instead.
To reinforce that point, he held up a letter that he said was from Saudi Binladin Group, the main contractor on the 1,000-meter tower.
He said: “It says the following: ‘Saudi Binladin Group would like to assure Jeddah Economic Company that it remains committed to the completion of the Jeddah project.”
Alwaleed said that no charges had been brought against him and described his detention as a “misunderstanding.”
Asked if it cost him anything to leave, he said: “I will not comment on the content of the agreement between me and the government.”
The prince also revealed how he spent his time at the now world-famous Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh.
“I really divide my time into a lot of sports, a lot of walking, a lot of meditation, a lot of watching news, a lot of praying.”
The vegan prince said that while he would usually have two meals a day, when he was at the hotel he would instead have six small meals.
But while the interview painted a fascinating picture of his time at the Ritz-Carlton, the precise details of his agreement with the Saudi government were not disclosed.
Still, Alwaleed did reveal that plans were under consideration to spin off some his company’s property holdings in Saudi Arabia into a separate entity which could be a real estate investment trust (REIT).
He said that his company had invested more than $3 billion in Saudi Arabia last year and that Kingdom Holding planned to raise between $1 billion and $2 billion of new debt.
Alwaleed also revealed plans to co-invest with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
“Yes, this will happen. We are in discussion right now with PIF, so we co-invest in certain projects, yes,” he said.
Alwaleed’s interview comes just days after another Ritz-Carlton detainee, Waleed Al-Ibrahim, also outlined new business plans following his release.
The MBC chairman described plans for a new joint venture with the government in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.