Saudi prince buys $300m sliver of Twitter

Tiny-revenue microblogger really worth $10bn?


A Saudi prince whose investment company claims to have a fondness for free speech has plopped $300m into the coffers of Twitter, the 140-characters-at-a-time social networking service widely touted as an enabler of this year's Arab Spring.

"Our investment in Twitter reaffirms our ability in identifying suitable opportunities to invest in promising, high-growth businesses with a global impact," said billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the nephew of Saudi king Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, in a statement announcing the deal on Monday.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal

As reported by Bloomberg, a joint venture comprised of Alwaleed and Kingdom Holding Company (KHC), the Saudi investment house he controls, purchased a "strategic stake" in the 100 million–user microblogging site. Such a stake is defined as being of at least 3 per cent, according to an investment expert speaking with Bloomberg – so if that is, indeed, how much of Twitter Alwaleed has bought, the site would be valued at $10bn.

The Saudi prince is not the only investor dabbling in Twitter recently. In early August, Twitter blogged that it had "an opportunity to expand Twitter's reach with a significant round of funding led by the venture firm DST Global, with the participation of several of our existing investors."

The anonymous Twitter blogger didn't expand on the numbers, but reports at the time suggested that Russian investment company DST had ponied up $400m, with an additional $400m coming from the others.

Ahmed Halawani, KHC's executive director of private equity and international investments gave a straightforward – if optimistic – reason for Monday's Saudi investment. "We believe that social media will fundamentally change the media industry landscape in the coming years," he said. "Twitter will capture and monetize this positive trend."

Exactly how Twitter will "monetize" itself is not yet clear. As the Financial Times has pointed out, the company is expected to have revenues of only $200m or less this year.

Alwaleed has other media iron in the investment fire. He holds a strong position in Rupert Murdoch's News Corp – 7 per cent of the company's Class B common stock – and he's planning to launch an Arabic-language news channel, Alarab, next year that a KHC statement said "will focus editorially on the important shifts taking place across the Arab world with an emphasis on freedom of speech and freedom of press."

In addition to News Corp and now Twitter, Alwaleed's high-profile investments include Citigroup and Apple. As an example of his investing acumen, he bought his slice of Apple in 1997 at about $9.50 per share. That stock is now selling rather comfortably above that. ®

Bootnote

In a part of the world known for having its share of high-rollers, Alwaleed rolls the highest. Just yesterday, he was named – for the eighth year in a row – the Arab world's richest businessman, with a net worth of $21.3bn.

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Robotics and 5G to spur growth of SoC industry – report
    Big OEMs hogging production and COVID causing supply issues

    The system-on-chip (SoC) side of the semiconductor industry is poised for growth between now and 2026, when it's predicted to be worth $6.85 billion, according to an analyst's report. 

    Chances are good that there's an SoC-powered device within arm's reach of you: the tiny integrated circuits contain everything needed for a basic computer, leading to their proliferation in mobile, IoT and smart devices. 

    The report predicting the growth comes from advisory biz Technavio, which looked at a long list of companies in the SoC market. Vendors it analyzed include Apple, Broadcom, Intel, Nvidia, TSMC, Toshiba, and more. The company predicts that much of the growth between now and 2026 will stem primarily from robotics and 5G. 

    Continue reading
  • Deepfake attacks can easily trick live facial recognition systems online
    Plus: Next PyTorch release will support Apple GPUs so devs can train neural networks on their own laptops

    In brief Miscreants can easily steal someone else's identity by tricking live facial recognition software using deepfakes, according to a new report.

    Sensity AI, a startup focused on tackling identity fraud, carried out a series of pretend attacks. Engineers scanned the image of someone from an ID card, and mapped their likeness onto another person's face. Sensity then tested whether they could breach live facial recognition systems by tricking them into believing the pretend attacker is a real user.

    So-called "liveness tests" try to authenticate identities in real-time, relying on images or video streams from cameras like face recognition used to unlock mobile phones, for example. Nine out of ten vendors failed Sensity's live deepfake attacks.

    Continue reading
  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022