The New York Times has announced that Saudi billionaire Prince Walid bin Talal and his Kingdom Holding Company have invested $300 million in the social networking site Twitter. The move follows other similar investments according to Middle East Online (MEA), which notes that the Holding Company has invested heavily in print media and now owns several Arab newspapers and magazines such as the Asharq Al-Awsat and Al Eqtisadieh. Though the prince’s stake in Twitter is too small to allow him to exert much influence over the direction Twitter will take over the next few years, it isn’t inconceivable that the prince will seek to increase his shares if the company continues to do well, thus giving him more say in how the company is run.
MEA, in addition to pointing out that the Holding Company has made it clear that the move is purely financial and not political, also notes that use of Twitter by people in Arab countries has spiked over the past year and a half, most particularly during the so-called Arab Spring that led to the overthrow of the governments in Egypt and Libya, and turmoil in other countries such as Syria. MEA says that tweets in Arabic now number two million per day, compared to just under half that last year at this time last year and that such tweets now make Arabic the 6th most popular language on Twitter.
The Times reports that the Prince also has holdings in Apple, Citigroup, and the Walt Disney Company, and also makes note of the fact that Forbes magazine named him the 19th wealthiest person in the world last year.
The prince did not make the announcement himself, preferring to allow his wife to do the honors via Twitter, where she wrote that is was “a great planned move” on the part of her husband.
Because he is known for his shrewd business dealings, the investment by the prince is seen, the Times reports, as a boon for Twitter because it gives the company a strong boost of confidence by someone so well respected.
The Times also notes that Twitter is expected to take in $139.6 million in ad revenue this year, and most expect that number to grow substantially over the next, especially now that bin Talal has sunk in so much cash. The prince joins other investors such as Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, who have now collectively pumped $800 million into Twitter in just the past several months.