Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud told journalists he will retain his stake in microblogging business Twitter Inc when the company issues public shares.
Speaking to Reuters yesterday, the Kingdom Holding chairman said, "Clearly the speed they're moving with shows that they would like to IPO sooner than later. I believe it will happen either this year or early next year."
The prince, a nephew of King Abdullah, invested $300m in Twitter, but opted not to buy any Facebook shares when the world's number-one social network went public last year.
"Twitter is a very strategic investment for us. We believe that it is just beginning to touch the surface. We have invested $300m in the company. We will be selling zero, nothing, at the IPO," said Prince Alwaleed, citing the company's 300m active users and 500m daily tweets and referring to chief executive Dick Costolo as "very knowledgeable, very much trustworthy".
Twitter announced on Thursday that it had filed for IPO with US regulators. Market analysts have anticipated that the listed value of the company will be around $10bn, but Prince Alwaleed believes a higher valuation is possible.
"We hear that the company is valued at $14bn-$15bn but there have been trades above this valuation. We believe it might be worth more than that."
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Facebook's troubled Nasdaq listing saw shares tumble from their $38 launch price. It took until July before stock returned to that level. While avoiding suggestions that Twitter should list on the New York Stock Exchange rather than Nasdaq, the prince said he had urged Costolo and his team to be mindful of Facebook's missteps.
"The lessons are not to brag too much, don't be greedy - I mean price it right and be realistic," he told Reuters.
Twitter played a huge role in the Arab Spring, helping to garner support, broadcast social issues and oust a number of incumbent heads of state across the region. The platform continues to be a source of concern for governments across the GCC, with tweeters finding themselves in court or prison in Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia for criticising public figures. Prince Alwaleed has, in the past, spoken of the futile nature of such crackdowns and yesterday he reiterated this position.
"There is no doubt that Twitter accelerated the process of disseminating news," he said. "It has to remain an open forum for everyone... I'm totally against anybody who tries to control or censor Twitter or any other social media, even if it is governments. It's a losing war."