Saudi prince plans to take holdings public

Hotels group will be dual listed in London, Dubai

LONDON — Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, reputedly the world’s richest Arab, plans to float his Rotana AudioVisual media conglom, valued at $1 billion, early next year.

The IPO is part of a wider plan to take public his Kingdom Hotels Investment Group, also worth $1 billion.

Rotana is seen as an Arabic MTV, offering music and free-to-air satcasting on 24-hour music channels in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Dubai. Rotana also is the largest producer and distributor of Arabic music.

Alwaleed will retain his considerable stake in Arab satcaster LBC-Al Hayat, as well as News Corp., and likely expand his media empire toward general entertainment programming and acquisition.

The hotels group will be dual listed in London and Dubai. The listing for the TV and music assets is yet to be announced.

It remains to be disclosed how much of either asset will be put up for sale, and what Alwaleed will do with the income.

“He certainly doesn’t need the cash,” said regional media industry expert Chris Forrester. Alwaleed is the nephew of ruling King Fahd and the world’s fifth richest man. “With no subscriptions and modest advertising revenues (on Rotana’s channels) it will be tough to see a substantial return on investment, but I have no doubt its success will continue.”

Long rumored to be interested in a career in politics in the Saudi kingdom and in his mother’s homeland of Lebanon, it is possible Alwaleed may use the IPO to consolidate his position in both countries.

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