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Mon 11 Jan 2010 05:17 PM

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Saudi billionaire eyes Citigroup profit in 2010

Major shareholder Prince Alwaleed also says Kingdom Holding earned Q4 2009 profit.

Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, head of Kingdom Holding and a shareholder in Citigroup, said the US bank had put the worst behind it and would post a profit this year and next.

Alwaleed, one of the world's wealthiest individuals, said the worst was behind Citigroup, that global markets were close to the end of the crisis and his Kingdom Holding would post a profit in the fourth quarter.

Speaking in his office in Kingdom Tower's headquarters to Reuters, Alwaleed said: "The turnaround for Citi is already happening right now. The shares are up right now so the worst is over."

He added: "In 2010, I'm looking for stabilization and profitability also. I'm expecting 2010 to be profitable for Citi."

Asked if the first quarter of 2010 would be profitable for Citi, Alwaleed said: "I don't know, but I hope (so)."

Alwaleed said last week that Kingdom would slash its capital by almost half while agreeing to transfer free of charge 180 million Citi shares - which he valued at $3.31 each - from his own pocket on to Kingdom's balance sheet.

The global financial crisis and economic slowdown have had a severe impact on the profitability of Kingdom Holding, which derives the bulk of its revenues from shareholdings' dividends and its hotel business.

The firm's investment in Citi is worth some $4.3 billion, based on Citi's closing price on Friday. Kingdom also holds investments in real estate, property and equipment and intangible assets which it estimated at $7.1 billion by end-September.

Alwaleed told a news conference the capital decrease at Kingdom, in which he holds a 95 percent stake, would cancel all accumulated losses at the diversified investment firm, and that results for the last quarter and full year 2009 would be positive.

He said Kingdom was in talks to buy into four "global" firms but declined to be more specific.

He also said: "We are going to make an announcement to make a big investment in Africa," but declined to elaborate. (Reuters)

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