The Private Office of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and Kingdom Holding Company (KHC) announced that they have ended their long-standing relationship with the Forbes Billionaires List.
The relationship was severed in a letter from Prince Alwaleed, chairman of KHC, to Steve Forbes, chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes, requesting that the prince be removed from the list and informing Forbes that KHC officials would no longer work with the Forbes valuation teams.
Prince Alwaleed has taken this step as he felt he could no longer participate in a process, which resulted in the use of incorrect data and seemed designed to disadvantage Middle Eastern investors and institutions.
Over the past six years, KHC officials, working with the Forbes teams, have uncovered what appear to be intentional biases and inconsistencies in the Forbes valuation process, including, especially this year:
• A sudden refusal after six years to accept share values as listed by the Tadawul – Saudi Arabia’s fully regulated 21st century high-tech stock exchange that services the largest economy in the Middle East and is a member of the World Federation of Exchanges.
• A completely unsupported and biased allegation based on rumors that stock manipulation “is the national sport” in Saudi Arabia because “there are no casinos.”
• The application of differing standards of proof for different individuals and organizations resulting in an arbitrary and confusing set of standards that seems demonstrably biased against the Middle East. For example, the valuations of other emerging markets such as the Mexican stock exchange are accepted while those of the Tadawul are not.
• Unexplained and purely arbitrary discounts applied to holdings not backed up by brokerage statements when pre-IPO investments such as those in Twitter and China’s 360Buy would not appear on any brokerage statement, and after impressing on Forbes that KHC’s investments are covered by confidentiality agreements.
Shadi Sanbar, CFO of Kingdom Holding, explained, “We have worked very openly with the Forbes team over the years and have on multiple occasions pointed out problems with their methodology that need correction. However, after several years of our efforts to correct mistakes falling on deaf ears, we have decided that Forbes has no intention of improving the accuracy of their valuation of our holdings and we have made the decision to move on. KHC puts a premium on tracking the true value of our investments and it is contrary to both our practice and nature to assist in the publication of financial information we know to be false and inaccurate.”
KHC will continue to work with the Bloomberg Billionaires valuation teams, which Prince Alwaleed considers to use a more accurate method of calculating financial holdings.
The Private Office of Prince Alwaleed has retained counsel and reserves its rights in law and at equity.