FRANKFURT May 8 Saudi billionaire Prince
Alwaleed bin Talal is eyeing three big investments in the
near-term, setting a high bar for the acquisitions as he pursues
ambitious returns of at least 20 percent, he told a German
Alwaleed, a nephew of Saudi Arabia's king who was estimated
by Forbes magazine last year to have a fortune of over $19
billion, already owns a 7-percent stake in News Corp
and plans to start a cable news channel.
"We are currently in talks over three quite big (investment)
projects - one in Saudi Arabia, one in the (Arab) region and one
internationally," Alwaleed told business daily Handelsblatt's
"Our targets are very high - at least 20 to 25 percent.
Other Arab investors take a different stance, they want to
diversify away from oil and take lower returns of 6 to 8 into
account," he added.
The prince, who has a sizeable stake in Citigroup,
said he would continue to look at investments in the United
States and Europe but had no plans to raise his Citigroup
holding or buy into other U.S. banks.
"We have enough," he said of the Citigroup investment.
Asked if he is eyeing Greek, Portuguese or Spanish
investments, he told the paper: "We are looking around. And it
is right, some things are cheap now. But they could become
cheaper, the crisis is not yet over. There is no hurry."
The Arab world will also be a focus for future investments,
he told the paper, noting the prospect of high returns.
Alwaleed's investment firm Kingdom Holding plans to
build the world's tallest tower in Jeddah.
"(The building) in Jeddah ... itself will not yield much
return. That is only about ego. But because it is built, the
land around it will multiply in value. And we own the land."
The Saudi prince, who backs more rights for women in his
ultra-conservative country, said more political change was
needed in the Gulf Arab region which has largely been spared the
turmoil of the Arab Spring unrest.
"Rich countries in the Gulf have reacted quickly - socially
and economically. They have shared out money, created support
for the unemployed and brought in a minimum wage," he said. "But
that is not enough - people must be able to vote for their
parliaments. And parliaments must then have a real say."
In September, the Saudi king gave women the right to vote in
municipal elections and join an all-male, and legally toothless,
"Elections are the only option," he said of Saudi Arabia, an
absolute monarchy. "In other parts of the Arab world,
parliaments already have more power."
The prince, who bought a stake in microblogging site Twitter
in December, told the paper: "I am for freedom of opinion and
freedom of press. I am for the equality of man and woman. If you
invest in Twitter, you believe in freedom of information.
"I very much hope that the countries which have not yet seen
the influence of the Arab Spring have understood the message.
They should introduce freedom and equality. And these countries
should react quickly."