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"We’ll See Some Initial Panic": World Reacts To Billionaire Alwaleed's Stunning Purge

A shocked world is gradually responding to the stunning news of the Saudi "countercoup" purge that took place overnight - the second in six months -  and which led to the arrest of 11 princes, 38 current and former senior officials on corruption charges from a newly established anti-corruption committee headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and which most notably resulted in the detention of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the billionaire Clinton Foundation donor with significant stakes in Citigroup and Twitter, and who famously feuded with president Donald Trump, calling him a "disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America" back in December 2015.

.


You are a disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America.

Withdraw from the U.S presidential race as you will never win.

— ?????? ?? ???? (@Alwaleed_Talal)

Trump's angry response at the time was immediate (and prompted some to speculate that Crown Prince MBS sacrificed Alwaleed to appease the US president).

Dopey Prince

wants to control our U.S. politicians with daddy’s money. Can’t do it when I get elected.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

Predictably, initial focus has fallen on bin-Talal massive net worth, and specifically his investments. As Bloomberg calculates, the Saudi (ex?) prince is ranked the world’s 50th richest person with a net worth of about $19 billion; he is the founder of Kingdom Holding Co., a Riyadh-based investment company that has holdings in real estate, hotels and stocks such as Apple around the world.

A list of bin-Talal's assets compiled by Bloomberg shows that in addition to his equity holdings, the prince also owns $284 million in jewelry, $225 million worth of "plane and yacht", and $120 million in "furniture and fixtures."

Alwaleed has also long ranked among Citigroup’s largest and most outspoken shareholders, encouraging the lender to rebuild its Saudi Arabian business more than a decade after it lost a key banking license there. The bank will reopen in the kingdom later this year after a 13-year absence and lobbying by Alwaleed, according to Bloomberg.

Citigroup Chief Executive Officer Mike Corbat met the prince in Riyadh in March to discuss the bank’s future plans. Kingdom Holding has held the stock since 1991, according to its website, a span that included a 98 percent plunge during the 2008-2009 financial crisis. Citigroup shares have since climbed more than sevenfold.

Alwaleed's investment firm has also tended significant stakes in Apple and EBay Inc. for well over a decade.

While the website doesn’t specify the size of such holdings, Alwaleed’s investments are sometimes detailed in regulatory filings. At the end of last year, for example, he exercised voting rights for about 35 million shares of Twitter, most of which he owned directly, according to a February regulatory filing. As of Friday, a stake that size had a $695 million market value -- or almost 5 percent of the microblogging website’s total.

The kneejerk reaction to the news was adverse, with shares in Kingdom Holding, his biggest assets, plunged as much as 9.9% to levels not seen since December 2011, before closing down 7.6 %.

Quoted by Bloomberg, Joice Mathew, head of equity research at United Securities in Muscat, said that “There’s a good chance that stocks linked to Kingdom Holding, such as Twitter and Citigroup, will be hammered in trading tomorrow unless you see some sort of comment or statement from the companies or Alwaleed himself.”

“In the absence of news or details on what kind of corruption this is, we’ll see some initial panic, that’s for sure" he added.

Alwaleed also holds stakes in Beijing-based online retailed JD.com Inc., the Four Seasons hotel chain and Accor Hotels. Kingdom Holding is also backing a project to build the world’s tallest tower in Jeddah. 2017 had been a bad year for Alwaleed even before this weekend's arrest: his wealth has declined by more than $700 million so far this year, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

More bad news for the freshly arrested royalty emerged on Sunday, when Saudi officials said the bank accounts of those arrested in the crackdown will be frozen. For bin-Talal this means roughly a quarter billion in cash is no longer accessible.

Saudis say bank accounts of those arrested in corruption crackdown to be frozen

— AFP news agency (@AFP)

Meanwhile, even as Alwaleed's investments got crushed following the news of his arrest - or are about to be once global markets open - algos and ETF managers took one look at the selloff in the broader Saudi index, the Tadawul All Share index, and did what they have been programmed to do so well in recent years: they bought the dip.