CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo speaks with Prince Alwaleed about the protests in Egypt, the idea that the U.S. could ultimately become an oil exporter and whether he has filed a defamation claim against Forbes. Forbes says they have not received any lawsuit yet. Prince Alwaleed in very rare interview says Forbes is ‘defaming’ his home country of Saudi Arabia in a CNBC interview.
Prince Alwaleed Video and Transcript embedded Below
we want to get reaction to what’s happening in egypt right now.one of the world’s wealthiest people, part of the saudi royalfamily, prince alwaleed bin talal has been watching the situation closely. he says middle eastern countries need evolution, not revolution. he joins me now in a cnbc exclusive to talk about that and a lot more, from the savoy hotel in london. prince alwaleed, great to have you on the program. thanks for joining us. hello, maria. always nice to be with you. always good to see you, yourhighness. let me begin with what’s happening in egypt now.you’ve been following it. what’s your perspective? well, as you know, egypt went through a revolution, and the islamic brotherhood won the election. but clearly, the islamic peopleover there have proven to be strong underground, but when itcame to the politics above ground, they have proven to be afailure. this is good news to show the real face of those who are underground. the question right now, what’s next for egypt.clearly, egypt is in turmoil, and i think that the army will have to play a role in the coming few days. what do you think about thepressure coming from the military? i mean, given the military’spressure, is that a positive or does that create all sorts ofimplications with foreigners, for example? i mean, does the relationship with the united states change given the military’s pressure here? yeah, you understand that when a country like egypt, with almost 19 million population, is in turmoil, there’s no doubt that the military has to be involved sooner or later ifthings don’t stabilize. and it doesn’t seem that the situation is on the verge of being stabilized. so there is no doubt that themilitary will have to be involved one way or another, sooner or later. we were talking with an international economist earlier,prince alwaleed, and basically she said this is a fundamentalissue throughout the middle east, and that we need to see real reform. weto see an improvement for the people in order toreally see an end to some of these demonstrations that havebeen going on now, of course, ever since the arab spring. do you think we will see that kind of evolution that you referred to earlier? yeah, i wrote several articles in the western media,advocating evolutions so no revolutions take place. and clearly, most of the arab nations that thanks god do not have a revolution, they are watching very closely what’s happening in egypt, syria, libya, and to a certain extent kenya. they’re very worried what’s happening there. they are beginning to do somereforms in their countries. so i’m also advocating peacefulevolutions rather than violent revolutions like happening rightnow in egypt. do you worry that this could happen in saudi arabia? well, if you look at the — not just saudi arabia, but all of the countries, saudi arabia, uae, kuwait, oman, they are really in peace completely. and the quality of life there is high. the economy’s doing good. having said that, there’s no country immune from what’s happening in the vicinity. so it is very important to use and capitalize on this tranquility and stability we have right now and really inject as many as possible reforms on the political, economy, and social front, so you haveimmunity from god forbid any summer revolutions or anyturmoil, god forbid. yeah, you make a very good point.meanwhile, the other story that is sidetracking this one is oil.your highness. now, oil is pushing $100 a barrel. how much of what’s happening in egypt, or throughout the middle east, broadly speaking, is a threat to the stability of oil prices? well, you know, the price for oil is a function of the stability of the middle east to a certain extent. having said that, there’s nodoubt that the production of shale oil in united states, europe, and some other countries in the world, and the actualproduction of more oil and gas in the united states, australia,and canada, is going to put more pressure on the price of oil and gas in the coming years and decades. so it’s very important f the — those countries who depend on oil, such as the members of opec, to really begin diversifying and be lessdependent on oil. what do you think of the idea that the united states could ultimately become an oil exporter? a lot of reports saying it could happen by 2020. i think this is a fact. and clearly, this is one of the tailwinds that the united states is going to be facing in the neecade, or two decades, whereby the oil and gas coming from the — the gas and oil, or the new shale oil on gasproduction is going to be a major boost to the manufacturingindustry and to the united states in general. so it’s good for united states. however, for other countries who are dependent on oil, it is very important that they take a widening look, and begin diversifying the countries that are dependent on oil. does that change the relationship with saudi arabia, if, in fact, the united states becomes an oil exporter, do you think? well, the relationship between saudi arabia and united states has been established a long — a long time ago when the king established saudi arabia, and met the president of the united states.roosevelt. so, no, the united states relationship is very strong, and it goes beyond oil. clearly, oil plays a big role in the equation. but you have to understand that saudi arabia is the — is the anchor of the islamic world, the arab world, so the relationship with saudi arabia is stronger than and being dependent only on oil. your highness, you are coming to us from the savoy hotel in london, which, of course, you own. you also own the plaza in new york, the george sank in paris, a whole host of upscale hotels. how’s the hotel business goingright now? well, it’s very clear that the hotel industry has moveddown on the corner, and now is an upside cycle. we clearly see it from our four seasons brand. all of the hotels are seeing apick up in occupancy rates and revenue for the room, so it’s very clear the cycle now is very favorable to the hotel industry, and we see it across the board all over the world. and, in fact, you’re seeing money come in from foreigners, too, obviously, in the hotel business. where’s the money coming from? well, you know, for example, we are invested with bill gates in owning the four seasons and the government is our partners in the fairmont brand. so we see a lot of interest and buying stakes in hotels and hotel management companies, and, as you know, we are involved in both hotel management and real estate part of the hotel equation. and i know the qataris are your partner. i know you did a deal with bill gates. by the way, your highness, were you surprised at the shake-up in the qatari government? i know you know the sheik very well. is that going to be a problem in the relationship? oh, not really, i just spoke to him a few days ago, and they’re very much in control. actually, i’ve called my friend bajum, and he was there during the handover of the new amir, and he left to europe. i talked to him. he’s on board. he’s very happy. and he said it’s time for new leadership, new age to take over, and really applaud qatar for this dramatic move, thatreally it will be the trend in the arab world. your highness, whether the hotel assets, your investments in the u.s., kingdom holdings’ value, your value in terms of what forbes magazine said it is was different than what you — what you are actuallyfighting with forbes, because they valued you at $20 billion, and you say it should be more than that. have you actually filed adefamation claim against forbes as some have reported? yeah, i need to confide something here. some media outlets got it right, but some media, unfortunately, got it wrong. this has nothing to do with the perm wealth of me, with the integrity of the stock market, with the integrity of stock market in saudi arabia, where forbes has defamed both my country and the stock market over there. and that’s why we’re going to fight this to the end, and, yes, we are going to sue them in the u.k., whereby we’d like them to withdraw all their wrong allegations against saudi arabia and against the stock market in saudi arabia. this has nothing to do in no way whatsoever — my wealth has beenfollowed by many other entities in the world. have you filed suit already? this matter is being managed by my lawyers, and, yes, we are — we have filed for the suit, and our lawyers are in touch with the lawyers, because we will not tolerate and accept any defamation of saudi arabia and the stock market and thetrading process in saudi arabia, period. right. so, in other words, some of the — some in the media have talked about it as if it’s you caring about what your net worth is, but, in fact, you’re saying forbes defamed the saudis, defamed saudi arabia and the market. i want to get your reaction to what forbes says, because they’re respopding to your claims. they wrote us this statement today. they say, we continue to be bemoussed by prince alwaleed’s ego-driven pr stunt. forbes still has not beenserved with any lawsuit. our story raises significant questions about his finances, and we would welcome the opportunity to uncover further relevant information during the course of any hypothetical suit. so i guess the question is, what’s next? are you going to provide evidence, send that lawsuit, what’s your reaction to that statement, your highness? my wealth is a function of the market capitalization of kingdom holding, and whehe market capitalization of kingdom holding and the stock market in saudi arabia have the integrity of saudi arabia in general is being hurt and being put under suspicion by a magazine called forbes, this cannot be tolerated at all. yes, we are filing a suit. guess what, the lawyer is already in touch with their lawyer. for them to say they are not served, that’s really, at best, a compromising the truth. what would you like forbes to do at this point? i just like forbes to treat saudi arabia like any other country, as a member of the g-20. remember, saudi arabia is a member of g-20. saudi arabia is the biggesteconomy in the middle east. saudi arabia should be comparedto the bricks countries. saudi arabia should be compared to the japan and united states. the stock market in saudi arabia is beyond any suspicion or doubt. that’s what has to be — thatwhat has to happen by forbes before we engage in discussionwith them. and have you seen any negative implications in saudi arabia as a result of what they published? not really.thanks god the integrity of kingdom holding and the integrity of bin talal is beyond the rumors of a magazine that a suit is very much in doubt. let’s move on to some of our other investment, prince alwaleed, because you have knee-deep stakes in news corp., 21st century, one of the leading investors there, as well as citi. talk to us about news corp., 21st century. are you keeping both stocks post-split? yes, i am very glad of the move that my partner, my friend rupert murdoch have taken in splitting the empire, the conglomerate empire of news corp. into two parts, the publishing company and now we are invested in both. clearly, we will evaluate the situation and look at theportfolio of each company and then make a decision. yes, we are very happy with that move, and our alliance with rupert murdoch and news corp. is as solid as a rock. do you like one other the over? where do you think the growth will be between the two companies? well, you know, each company has its advantage. each company — one is value, one is growth. so really, you know, this just has — the split just took over, and just began trading a few days ago. i think we need some time toabsorb the situation, compare both companies, fit that in ourkingdom strategy globally, and then make a decision based onour interests and the shareholders’ interests of kingdom holding and saudi arabia. prince, what’s your take right now on citi? i mean, you have been one of those investors who wanted a higher dividend, obviously, a sustained significant dividend.you have yet to see one. are you losing patience, or what?what’s your take on citi right now? oh, no, no, we’ve about withciti since 1991. if you compare the results of citi, the last quarter, with all the banks, all the big conglomerate banks like bank ofamerica, jpmorgan, wells fargo, the other banks, citigroup’sresults were way ahead. my friend now, mr. conrad, to continue with the resilience and the good performance that we achieve so far under his tenure, and he was with me in saudi arabia visiting a few months ago, and very optimistic he will sustain the trajectory and growth that citi is under right now. are you investing in the u.s. more so than in pastimes right now?what’s your take on the broader market? yeah, you know, we have investment committee that monitors globally the situation,and our latest investment in the united states was in twitter,whereby now it is clearly doing very well, and also we haveinvestment in similar company in china, and entered that arena,and 360, and the company is very much compared to amazon and has the very small market share right now, and 1.3 billionpopulation and growing, by today, the middle class over there.so the two companies with the latest investment in the unitedstates and china, and we are always looking for newopportunities when the — when they arise. yeah, you’ve been a real social networker. i’ve seen your tweets, and i’m going to tweet you a message when we finish this interview, your highness. are you expecting twitter to go public? yeah, i have followed you 1,000 tweets on your lovely dog. oh, thank you so much, prince alwaleed. that’s very kind. you think twitter will gopublic? is that your exit? yeah, i think twitter eventually have to go public, but i believe, also, twitter has learned a lesson from the facebook going public, so i think they have to be very patient — be very patient and not rush things at all. they have to be on solid grounds, and not succumb to the pressure of the markets. clearly, would like them to go public sooner than later, but you won’t push them until the market is ready for them, untilthey’re mature enough, until the market reaction looks at thempositively, so when they go, the market reaction to them will bepositive. and that, frankly speaking, not the reaction they had onfacebook. all right. we’ll live it there. prince alwaleed, great to have you on the program as usual. thank you very much for joining us. pleasure to be with you, maria. thank you. we will see you soon. prince alwaleed joining us live tonight in london.