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Wed 21 Jan 2009 12:59 PM

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Saudi billionaire Alwaleed rejigs investments - report

UPDATE 1: Kingdom Holding chief reviews investments after his firm posts huge Q4 loss.

Saudi billionairePrince Alwaleed bin Talalis reviewing his investment portfolio, Saudi newspapers quoted him as saying on Wednesday, after his Kingdom Holding Co posted a record loss in the fourth quarter."Kingdom Holding Company is working on rebalancing its investments and to redirect them," Asharq al-Awsat newspaper quoted him as saying at a press conference for the Saudi media.

Alwaleed, nephew of King Abdullah, did not elaborate but al-Eqtisadiah newspaper quoted him saying that his investments will focus more on "Saudi Arabia and the region" and he cited particular interest in real estate.

Kingdom Holding's spokeswoman Heba Fatani could not be reached for comment.

Kingdom Holding, in which Alwaleed holds a 94 percent stake, shocked investors after it announced a $8.26 billion net loss for the fourth quarter due to a dive in the value of its assets, which include a substantial stake in Citigroup.

Alwaleed said little about his company's stake in Citigroup, which accounted for more than 40 percent of the total value of Kingdom Holding's assets when the latter was selling shares to the Saudi public in July, 2007.

"The U.S. government has given great support (to Citi) and we hope these measures will soon stabilise the bank," al-Hayat newspaper quoted him as saying.

The value of Kingdom's assets fell to 50 billion riyals by the end of 2008 down from some 90 billion riyals in July, 2007, board member Ahmad Halawani said on Tuesday.

Kingdom owned 3.6 percent of the ailing U.S. bank in July, 2007. Five months later, Prince Alwaleed said he was among investors, including the Kuwait Investment Authority that agreed to sink at least five billion dollars into Citigroup as it scrambled for capital.

Halawani said the fourth-quarter losses were the result of liquidations of "some international and local" assets in 2008 and a four billion dollar provision for impairment losses on its investment portfolio.

Halawani declined to say if Citigroup shares were part of the assets the company had shed.

Alwaleed was the world's 19th richest person with a $21 billion fortune according to Forbes' latest survey.

He originally paid $2.75 per Citigroup share, adjusted for stock splits, he said in a Fortune magazine interview published in November, 2007.

The royal came to the bank's aid in 1991, when he invested $590 million in Citigroup predecessor Citicorp, which needed cash as it struggled with Latin American loan losses and a collapse in US real-estate prices. (Reuters)

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