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Saudi Arabia's Alwaleed bin Talal 'invested $500m in Russian firms' as Ukraine war launched

US stock exchange filings show Kingdom Holding invested in Gazprom, Rosneft and Lukoil
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud was imprisoned by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh's Ritz Carlton hotel in 2017 as part of a major shake-up (AFP)

Alwaleed bin Talal, a billionaire Saudi prince, invested more than $500m in Russian firms during the same month Moscow began its invasion of Ukraine. 

Stock exchange filings seen by Bloomberg News showed Alwaleed's Kingdom Holding Co in February acquired shares in Gazprom, Lukoil and Rosneft. 

Kingdom Holding invested 1.37bn riyals ($365m) in Gazprom's American depositary receipts in February 2022. Between February and March, it invested $52m in Rosneft's global depositary receipts and $109m in Lukoil's American depositary receipts. 

The filings did not show when Talal's company made the specific investments, but after the war in Ukraine began on 24 February the Saudi prince's investments in these companies dropped rapidly in value. 

But the filings did show that Kingdom Holding had invested $3.4bn in global equities and depositary receipts since 2020. 

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Earlier this year, Alwaleed sold 625 million shares, or 16.87 percent, of his Kingdom Holding Co, worth approximately $1.5bn, according to official Saudi records, to the Saudi sovereign wealth fund. 

Alwaleed's grandfather, Abdulaziz, founded Saudi Arabia. He is one of the wealthiest men in the kingdom and known internationally for being a major investor, including in firms such as Twitter and Uber.

In 2017, the 67-year-old billionaire was among hundreds of Saudi princes and businesspeople imprisoned by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh's Ritz Carlton hotel and forced to hand over vast sums of cash in what authorities described as an anti-corruption drive. 

After three months, a gaunt Alwaleed was released, declaring his detention a misunderstanding. It is reported that he gave the authorities billions in return for his freedom.

Alwaleed recently had a back and forth with Tesla and Space X CEO Elon Musk over the latter's bid to buy Twitter.

The Saudi prince was one of the few investors who spoke out against Musk's takeover and said it did not reflect Twitter's "intrinsic value... given its growth prospects". 

But in late May, Alwaleed tracked back on his comment and agreed to contribute 35 million Twitter shares, worth $1.9bn, to retain a stake in the company post-acquisition.