by Josephine Moulds, The Guardian

March 5, 2013 (TSR) – One of the world’s richest men, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, has severed ties with the Forbes rich list, claiming it understated his wealth.

The Saudi investor, ranked 26th in the billionaires’ list released on Monday, accused Forbes of a “flawed” valuation method that undervalued his assets and “seemed designed to disadvantage Middle Eastern investors and institutions”.

Forbes estimates that Alwaleed – a nephew of the Saudi king with investments in everything from News Corp to the Savoy hotel – is worth $20bn (£13bn), putting him behind Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Prince Alwaleed

Alwaleed, on the other hand, estimates his own wealth at $29.6bn, which would catapult him into the top 10 of the magazine’s richest people on the planet, just behind 90-year-old French cosmetics heiress Liliane Bettencourt.

The prince wrote a letter to Forbes’s editor-in-chief, Steve Forbes, saying he will no longer provide the magazine with information about his finances and has reportedly instructed lawyers over the matter.

In a stinging rebuke, Alwaleed said he would continue to work with the Bloomberg Billionaires index, which was launched last year as a rival to Forbes’s long-established list. Bloomberg – which uses figures provided by Alwaleed’s investment vehicle, Kingdom Holding Company, as well as its own financial data – estimates the prince’s wealth at $28bn, ranking him the world’s 16th wealthiest person.

Forbes responded to the allegations saying it had been investigating the prince’s finances for several years and would detail its findings in a feature story in the magazine, released online on Tuesday.

The bone of contention appears to be Forbes’s refusal to use share values as listed by Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange, while it accepts the valuations of other emerging markets such as the Mexican stock exchange. Kingdom added that it had found inconsistencies in Forbes’s reporting, including “a completely unsupported and biased allegation based on rumours that stock manipulation ‘is the national sport’ in Saudi Arabia because ‘there are no casinos'”.

First published in The Guardian.


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