OMG! Saudi Prince Alwaleed buys $300m stake in Twitter

 

The Saudi billionaire, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, has bought a $300m (£193m) stake in Twitter, the social-media site that was instrumental in spreading the pro-democracy message of the Arab Spring.

The deal is likely to raise eyebrows given Saudi Arabia's own frantic efforts to insulate itself from the Arab uprisings that have toppled autocratic leaders in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya in the past year.

Prince Alwaleed, one of the world's richest men, bought the stake jointly with his Kingdom Holding Co investment firm.

The Prince said in a statement that it was part of a strategy "to invest in promising, high-growth businesses with a global impact".

The deal will give him just under 4 per cent in Twitter – based on an $8bn valuation of the loss-making company earlier this year – and was hailed by analysts as a shrewd investment in a company that many believe will be transformative in social media.

But on Twitter, the reaction was mixed, with many people concerned about the billionaire's motives for investing, suggesting he might use his influence to curb its reach if mass protests roil the oil-rich kingdom.

Others saw it as ironic. Roger Cohen, a columnist with The New York Times, tweeted: "Saudi prince buys into Twitter, engine of Arab anti-autocratic upheaval. Umm, is he missing something?"

Twitter, a platform for members to post 140-character messages, has been widely credited as the driving force behind the Arab Spring, helping campaigners disseminate information and organise protests. In Syria, where international media has been largely barred from reporting, pro-democracy activists have used it to broadcast details of their struggle against the regime to the outside world.

"Twitter is a technology that has for the first time introduced a level of accountability. It has given people the ability to publicly question... those they feel are not treating them fairly," said Bernhard Warner, co-founder of Social Media Influence, which tracks social-media trends. "I'm sure there are members of the Saudi royal family who are shaking their head, [thinking]: 'We're capitalising this thing that could create further unrest in our country.'"

Saudi Arabia only witnessed small-scale protests this year, driven by calls for economic and political reform, but these soon fizzled out after a massive security presence and a $130bn (£83bn) social spending package.

Royal and reformer

The slick California-educated Prince, worth $19.6bn (£12.6bn), has been dubbed the Arabian Warren Buffett. His Kingdom Holding Company has stakes in companies from Apple to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and owns numerous hotel chains. His media interests include Rotana Group, which broadcasts Fox channels in Saudi Arabia. He has announced the launch of a new pan-Arab 24-hour news channel that should be on air by the end of 2012. The head of the channel has said the Prince – one of the most reformist voices in the Saudi royal family – intends to use it to push his liberal agenda. loveday morris

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Direct Sales Consultants - OTE £65,000 - £100,000

£65000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This national direct sales com...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Consultant - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Can you sell? Want to earn over...

Recruitment Genius: Partitioners / Carpenter / Multi Skilled Tradesmen / Decorator

£28000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Various opportunities are avail...

Recruitment Genius: Trade Marketing Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company leads the market i...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum