Saudi Prince May Sue Forbes Over Rich List: Report

March 18, 2013Saudi Arabiaby EW News Desk Team


Saudi Arabia’s Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal has threatened legal action against Forbes Magazine for its annual rich list, reported The Telegraph, following insinuations that the Prince’s true wealth was $9.6 billion less than his own estimates, on account of alleged “market manipulation” in the Kingdom’s stock exchange.

Prince Al-Waleed, who owns 95 percent of the Kingdom Holding Company, with the remaining 5 percent floated on the Saudi Tadawul exchange, told The Telegraph on Sunday that he was deeply insulted by Forbes list, which had ranked him as the 26th richest man in the world about two weeks ago.

However, the prince stressed that his position on the list was not what angered him, but rather the way it had been calculated.

“They (Forbes) are accusing me of market manipulation,” said the prince. “This is all wrong and a false statement. We will fight it all the way against Forbes.”

“Saudi Arabia is a G20 country. This is very insulting for Saudi Arabia. To take the market capitalisation of Kingdom Holding and cut it in half can’t be accepted at all.”

On March 4, Forbes’ latest billionaires list had estimated Prince Al-Waleed to be worth $20 billion. In a separate article, list editor Kerry Dolan later explained that the magazine’s estimation was lower as they did not consider the share price of Al-Waleed's Saudi-listed Kingdom Holdings to be an accurate reflection of its true value.

“For the past few years former Al-Waleed executives have been telling me that the prince, while indeed one of the richest men in the world, systematically exaggerates his net worth by several billion dollars,” wrote Dolan.

“This led Forbes to a deeper examination of his wealth, and a stark conclusion: The value that the prince puts on his holdings at times feels like an alternate reality, including his publicly traded Kingdom Holding, which rises and falls based on factors that, coincidentally, seem more tied to the Forbes billionaires list than fundamentals,” he added.

The magazine then quoted an unnamed source that said that the Tadawul “is incredibly easy to manipulate” and also spoke to a former Kingdom executive who claimed that making plays on the exchange is “the national sport” because there “are no casinos. It’s the gambling site of the Saudis”.

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In response, Prince Al-Waleed immediately cut off all ties with the American-based magazine, claiming that he had discovered "what appear to be intentional biases and inconsistencies in the Forbes valuation process.”

In his interview with The Telegraph, the Saudi Prince then went on to insist that the damage had already been done so any retraction would not be a solution.

“The articles have already been circulated so removing them doesn’t mean anything. I just think that the best thing is to part ways and be removed from the list because I am going to pursue them all the way. I am not going to let this thing go at all.”

“We are discussing all the options now. Everything is on the table because they are not only against me but they are against Saudi Arabia. We will have to defend the rights of shareholders in Kingdom Holding and we will have to defend Saudi Arabia very vehemently and openly,” he added.

A press statement from the Kingdom, as cited by Business Insider, also said that it will continue to work with Forbes' rival list, the Bloomberg Billionaires List, since they " use a more accurate method of calculating financial holdings."

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