Fin24

Saudi billionaire buys Twitter stake

2011-12-19 09:56

Dubai - Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, an investor in some of the world's top companies, on Monday unveiled a $300m stake purchase in fast-growing microblogging site Twitter, gaining another foothold in the global media industry.

Alwaleed, a nephew of the Saudi king with a personal net worth estimated by Forbes magazine in March to be just below $20bn, already owns a 7% stake in News Corp and has unveiled plans to start a cable news channel.

The Twitter stake, bought jointly by Alwaleed and his Kingdom Holding investment firm, resulted from "months of negotiations," Kingdom said.

Applying an $8bn valuation figure for Twitter used by some analysts, the investment by Alwaleed and Kingdom amounts to a 3.75%.

Twitter, which allows people to send 140-character text messages, or Tweets, to groups of so-called followers, is one of the Web's most popular social networking services, along with Facebook and Zynga.

The company said in September that was in no hurry to undertake a hotly anticipated initial public offering. It raised $400 million in venture capital financing this summer.

It now counts more than 100 million active users who log onto the service at least once a month.

Facebook, the world's largest social network has more than 750 million active users.

Internet search giant Google Inc recently launched a social networking service dubbed Google+ which some observers say could lure users away from Twitter.

Arab Spring

The use of Twitter played a role in the spread of information in the Arab Spring, a series of revolts that have shaken the Middle East and North Africa this year.

Saudi Arabia headed off some rumblings of dissent from its own population by unveiling a $130bn social spending package.

Saudis are increasingly turning to satellite television, online news providers and social networking to stay abreast of world events. The world's No. 1 oil exporter announced a series of stricter regulations for journalists earlier this year.

Alwaleed, who has a sizeable stake in Citigroup, has spoken out in favour of broader political participation, fair elections and effective job creation across the Arab world.

Kingdom owns a near-30 percent stake in Saudi Research and Marketing Group, which runs a range of media titles.

"Our investment in Twitter reaffirms our ability in identifying suitable opportunities to invest in promising, high-growth businesses with a global impact," Alwaleed said in the statement.