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No Saudi funds pullout from US

Dubai, Aug. 22 (Reuters): Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal denied today reports that Saudi investors had withdrawn up to $200 billion from the US to protest against rising anti-Saudi sentiment.

“I’m holding on to all of them (my investments) and in all honesty increasing my stakes in certain companies in the US,” Alwaleed said. “My information tells me none of this is correct... What I am telling you represents the position of the Saudi royal family 100 per cent,” he added.

Alwaleed, one of the world’s richest men and a nephew of Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd, was responding to a report this week by London’s Financial Times which said Saudi investors had pulled out at least $200 billion from the US amid tension between the two countries after September 11.

The level of Saudi investment in the US was $400-600 billion. Alwaleed told the BBC that he was “surprised” by the FT report, adding: “Now there might have been some withdrawals, but not of the magnitude mentioned.”

Saudi bankers and analysts have said they have seen no evidence of massive capital flight from the US, although new investments could be harmed by the perceived US hostility towards Saudi Arabia.

Today, an unnamed Saudi official told the Saudi-owned Arabic daily Al-Hayat that prudent investors would not withdraw funds from depressed markets in the fear of compounding losses, referring to the sliding value of US shares in recent months.

The source also described the FT report as an attempt “to disfigure the image of Saudis in US society”. Ties between Saudi Arabia, a key US ally, and Washington have been strained since the suicide attacks which have been blamed on Saudi-born Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida network. At least 15 of the 19 perpetrators of September 11 were Saudis, a fact that prompted US media and commentators to lambast the kingdom’s religious and political establishments and question its “loyalty” to the US.

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