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Al waleed saudi prince disney netscape

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Al-Waleed's Princely Sums

05:02 AM Apr. 15, 1998 PT

It seems as though every time Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal drops a few million of his US$11 billion wealth, he makes a splash not only in corporate accounts but in the media as well.

Tuesday's announcement that the nephew of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia had invested $200 million in Teledesic, the telecommunications company backed by fellow billionaires Bill Gates and Craig McCaw, gave the press another occasion to gush over the 41-year-old prince's shrewd powers as an investor who buys into strong brand names that have taken a turn for the worse.

In the past, the prince has been labeled "one of the most astute investors -- a Warren Buffett for the millennium," in the pages of the Sacramento Bee newspaper, and a "savvy Saudi investor" by Time magazine.

Prince al-Waleed's investments include a 24 percent share of Euro Disney, 10 percent of Saks Fifth Avenue, and large chunks of Donna Karan International, Planet Hollywood, TWA, and Four Seasons Hotels. In the last year, high-tech companies have grabbed the prince's eye, and he has poured close to $1 billion collectively into Netscape Communications Corp., News Corp., Motorola Inc., and Apple Computer.

But a close look at al-Waleed's investments of late, especially in high tech, show that his choices haven't all been money-makers, at least not yet.

So far he's come out about even on a series of tech investments he announced on 25 November. He purchased a 5 percent stake in Netscape for $146 million; a 5 percent stake in News Corp. for $400 million; and a 1 percent stake in Motorola for $300 million.

Based on stock price changes between 25 November and today, it looks like al-Waleed has lost a little more than $100 million between his Netscape and Motorola investments, but the News Corp. shares should have balanced that out, with a $120 million gain. On 25 November Netscape shares traded at $28.50, but have since fallen to $17.81 on Tuesday; Motorola has gone from $64.81 in November to $54.13; and News Corp. has increased from $21.31 in November to $27.88.

Ironically, Apple -- which was still seriously in the red when al-Waleed scooped up 5 percent of the company for $115 million in March and April 1997 -- has been a boon to his portfolio, garnering him nearly $60 million in one year. On 1 April 1997, about the time the prince finished his buying spree, Apple stock was trading at $17.50, and has now jumped to about $26.81.

But al-Waleed's profit on tech stocks is minuscule compared to the $1.5 billion he made just last week off the Citicorp/Travelers Group mega-merger, according to the Chicago Tribune. He is the largest shareholder in Citicorp, the paper said.


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