Stock market crash obscures Saudi boom
The authorities of Saudi Arabia have used the stock market to redistribute wealth, but in doing so they helped inflate a bubble. The inevitable crash has aroused some discontent. Rather then rushing to bail the market out, policymakers should use the sell-off as a spur to force out the manipulators and build a sounder infrastructure by forging ahead with privatization, licensing new investment banks and brokers and fostering institutional asset management. The pain of the sell-off will eventually pass, because Saudi Arabia is booming.
Peter Lee reports.
RIYADH IS A boom town. Wandering its banking halls, corporate headquarters and ministries this April was to jostle with the great and good of international banking and finance. The vice-governor of the central bank has to draw his conversation with Euromoney to a close. That’s Hank Paulson, chairman and chief executive of Goldman Sachs cooling his heels in reception. Yes, prince Alwaleed is available but only after his meeting with Chuck Prince, chairman and CEO of Citigroup, in town to plead for a way back into the country Citigroup quit just a couple of years ago.
Teams of investment bankers from JPMorgan, Lehman Brothers, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley have been trooping through the astonishing Kingdom Tower, home to Kingdom Holding Company whose owner, the iconic Saudi billionaire prince Alwaleed bin Talal, is planning an IPO later this year. The prince, who famously rescued Citicorp by investing $600 million in stock of the troubled bank in 1991, making a fortune for himself in the process, intends to float 30% of his $20 billion company in October or November (see box).