Prince Alwaleed severs ties with Forbes Billionaires List
Prince Alwaleed severs ties with 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.
Gulf companies challenged by debt and rising interest rates
- Debt restructurings on the rise, but below crisis levels
- Central Bank of the UAE has raised interest rates four times since last March
There has been an uptick in recent months in heavily-borrowed companies in the Gulf seeking to restructure their debts with lenders. Although the pressure on companies is not comparable to levels witnessed in the region following the 2008 global financial crisis, rising interest rates will eventually begin to have a greater impact, say experts.
Speaking exclusively to Arab news, Matthew Wilde, a partner at consultancy PwC in Dubai, said: “We do expect that interest rate increases will gradually start to impact companies over the next 12 months, but to date the impact of hedging and the runoff of older fixed rate deals has meant the impact is fairly muted so far.”
The Central Bank of the UAE has raised interest rates four times since the start of last year, in line with action taken by the US Federal Reserve. The Fed has signalled that it will raise interest rates at least twice more before the end of the year.
Wilde added that there had been a little more pressure on company balance sheets of late, although “this shouldn’t be overplayed”.
Nevertheless, just last week, Stanford Marine Group — majority owned by a fund managed by private equity firm Abraaj Group — was reported by the New York Times to be in talks with banks to restructure a $325 million Islamic loan. The newspaper cited a Reuters report that relied on “banking sources”.
The Dubai-based oil and gas services firm, which has struggled as a result of the downturn in the hydrocarbons market since 2014, has reportedly asked banks to consider extending the maturity of its debt and restructuring repayments, after it breached certain loan covenants.
A fund managed by Abraaj owns 51 percent of Stanford Marine, with the remaining stake held by Abu Dhabi-based investment firm Waha Capital. Abraaj declined to comment.
Dubai-based theme parks operator DXB Entertainments struck a deal last month with creditors to restructure 4.2 billion dirhams ($1.1 billion) of borrowings, with visitor numbers to attractions such as Legoland Dubai and Bollywood Parks Dubai struggling to meet visitor targets.
Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Sharjah-based Gulf General Investment Company was in talks with banks to restructure loan and credit facilities after defaulting on a payment linked to 2.1 billion dirhams of debt at the end of last year.
Dubai International Capital, according to a Bloomberg report from December, has restructured its debt for the second time, reaching an agreement with banks to roll over a loan of about $1 billion. At the height of the emirate’s boom years, DIC amassed assets worth about $13 billion, including the owner of London’s Madame Tussauds waxworks museum, as well as stakes in Sony and Daimler. The firm was later forced to sell most of these assets and reschedule $2.5 billion of debt after the global financial crisis.
Wilde told Arab News: “We have seen an increasing number of listed companies restructuring or planning to restructure their capital recently — including using tools such as capital reductions and raising capital by using quasi equity instruments such as perpetual bonds.”
This has happened across the region and PwC expected this to accelerate a little as companies “respond to legislative pressures and become more familiar with the options available to fix their problems,” said Wilde.
He added that the trend was being driven by oil prices remaining below historical highs, soft economic conditions, and continued caution in the UAE’s banking sector.
On the debt restructuring side, Wilde said there had been a “reasonably steady flow of cases of debts being restructured”.
However, the volume of firms seeking to renegotiate debt remains small compared to the level of restructurings witnessed in the aftermath of Dubai’s debt crisis.
Several big name firms in the emirate were caught out by the onset of the global financial crisis, which saw the emirate’s booming economy and real estate market go into reverse.
State-owned conglomerate Dubai World, whose companies included real-estate firm Nakheel and ports operator DP World, stunned global markets in November 2009 when it asked creditors for a six-month standstill on its obligations. Dubai World restructured around $25 billion of debt in 2011, followed by a $15 billion restructuring deal in 2015.
“We would not expect it to become (comparable to 2008-9) so barring some form of sharp external impetus such as global political instability or a protectionist trade war,” said Wilde.
Nor did he see the introduction of VAT as particularly driving this trend, but rather as just one more factor impacting some already strained sectors (e.g. some sub sectors of retail) “which were already pressured by other macro factors.”