(Bloomberg) — Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal invested more than $500 million in Russian companies around the time of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, in a sign of the careful political positioning that the state of the Gulf has maintained with its OPEC+ partner.
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Prince Alwaleed’s investment firm, Kingdom Holding Co., purchased certificates of deposit issued by Gazprom PSJC, Lukoil PJSC and Rosneft PJSC in February, according to a filing with the stock exchange. Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
No specific dates were given for the investments, and the Saudi firm did not respond to questions about whether it still owned them. The value of all those warehouse receipts fell rapidly after the war began, when trade in Moscow was halted and Western sanctions were imposed on Russia.
Alwaleed, whose grandfather was the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, is one of the richest men in the country and one of the most high-profile international investors. More recently, he has been overshadowed by the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, chaired by his cousin Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which took a 16.9% stake in Kingdom Holding Co. in May.
Saudi Wealth Fund acquires $1.5 billion stake in Alwaleed firm
The investments highlight Saudi Arabia’s delicate relationship with Russia during the conflict, as many of its Gulf neighbors have withdrawn.
President Vladimir Putin and the kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have spoken several times since the start of the war. Both countries have worked together within the OPEC+ group of oil producers to manage crude supply, largely resisting calls from Western leaders, including US President Joe Biden, to help address concerns about global inflation by increasing oil production.
Prince Alwaleed was detained at the Saudi capital’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in 2017 along with other princes and government officials as part of what the state called an anti-corruption investigation. He was never formally charged, and he was released after 83 days, having reached an undisclosed “confirmed agreement” with the government.
Kingdom Holding invested 1.37 billion riyals ($365 million) in Gazprom’s US depository receipts in February, the largest holding disclosed so far this year. It also invested 196 million riyals in global Rosneft depository receipts in the same month, and 410 million riyals in US Lukoil depository receipts between February and March.
The purchases are part of Kingdom Holding’s investment program that focuses on alternative finance, energy, entertainment, artificial intelligence, insurance, asset management, commodities and funds.
The Saudi firm has invested $3.4 billion in global stocks and certificates of deposit since 2020, according to the filing, a rare disclosure by the company. The largest holding was an investment valued at 2.5 billion riyals in Spain’s Telefónica SA between April and August 2020.
It also disclosed stakes in Uber Technologies Inc., TotalEnergies SE, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and BHP Group Ltd., acquired mainly in 2020 and 2021. The most recent deal it disclosed was a 178 million riyal stake in Hercules Capital Inc., made in June. Shares of the venture capital firm have risen 17% since the beginning of July.
Prince Alwaleed, 67, became one of the most high-profile Saudi investors after taking stakes in companies including Citigroup Inc. and Apple Inc. He has supported Prince Mohammed’s modernization efforts, including giving women of the right to drive.
More recently, he announced the sale of a stake in his Rotana Music label to Warner Music Group Corp., and raised $2.2 billion by selling part of his stake in the Four Seasons hotel chain to Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment LLC.
Alwaleed is known for his long-term investing and is a fan of famed investor Warren Buffett. He once called himself the Arab equivalent of the Oracle of Omaha.
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