July 23rd, 2013
The Wall Street Journal has a good recent article titled Skyscraper Builders Reach for the Stars Once Again. It’s a summary of the skyscraper building boom currently happening everywhere from the UK to China and the Middle East.
The line that got my attention was: ”Currently, there are only three buildings in the world measuring more than 500 meters, but there are plans for 20 more by 2020…”
Reading this, I had a flashback to 2006 (possibly 2007). I was in Riyadh, sitting in the Kingdom Holding board room. And I was listening to Prince Alwaleed predict a future skyscraper boom almost exactly like what the WSJ just described. And he wasn’t just making off-handed comments, he was betting his $1.2 billion skyscraper project on what turned out to be a very accurate prediction.
The topic being discussed was his 8M sqm (at that time) Jeddah real estate development. A project approximately 12% the size of Manhattan. And a mega-tower was to be the centerpiece of the project.
I remember the board room was packed with people. Booz-Allen was there, having done multiple market studies. McKinsey was there (they later did a study for alternate tower sites like Shanghai). Hines was there as a potential development partner. And architects from the US, France and the UK had been flying in and out to present designs for months. It’s all a bit of a blur so I’m not completely sure who was in the room at that particular moment.
But I do remember Alwaleed said something that has stuck in my brain ever since.
There was a discussion about how tall the skyscraper should be. Maybe 300 meters like his current Riyadh tower. That is the height most towers in the West are being built at today. Maybe 500 meters like the tallest buildings in the world at that time. For example, the new World Trade Center in New York is set for 541 meters (completion in 2013-2014).
And maybe even 800 meters. At that time, the only tower of such height was still under construction in Dubai. And it was considered just more Dubai craziness.
Ignoring virtually everyone’s counsel, Alwaleed said he wanted two scenarios figured out. One for a tower at 1,000 meters and one for a tower at 1,600 meters (i.e., one mile). People thought he was crazy. Nobody said it out loud of course but that’s what everyone were thinking. Especially the real estate developers. People sort of assumed he was just pushing the limits and would eventually compromise with a smaller tower (note: Alwaleed doesn’t compromise on his ambitions). But the idea of a 1,000-1,600 meter tower was simply inconceivable at that time.
But here is what Alwaleed said that stuck in my brain (Note: I am paraphrasing six years later. This is not an exact quote). He basically said:
“Back in 2000, everyone told me building a 300 meter skyscraper in Riyadh was crazy. Today 300-500 meter towers are everywhere. And now people are saying 500-800 meters is crazy”
“I promise you 5 years from now, 500-800 meter towers will be showing up all over the world. What we want to do is leapfrog the next generation and plan for 1,000-1,600 right now.”
Looking at the WSJ article and at the 20 towers now being planned for above 500 meters, Alwaleed had it exactly right. His +1,000 tower, $1.2 billion tower under construction in Jeddah is a generation ahead of almost everyone.
For example, the tallest building in China is currently being built in Shanghai. It is planned for 800 meters. Shenzhen’s tallest building is now under construction and set for 660 meters. There are a couple of rumors of other 1,000 meter towers under development. But I’m 95% sure Alwaleed is the only person on the planet that has been focusing on 1,000-1,6000 meter towers since 2006-7.
A final note on the 1,600 meter, one mile tower. Kingdom is reportedly looking at alternate cities for such a tower. My guess is this will end up being in China, Russia or maybe India. Somewhere you can get a really big piece of land in a very dense market.
March 15th, 2013
The recent Forbes article on Prince Alwaleed is angry. And not just a little.
The article (by Kerry Dolan) floats innuendo after innuendo. His company’s stock price movements “curiously” match the timing of the Billionaire’s List calculation. Alwaleed got “help” from his family in building his company and in making Western acquisitions.
It makes ridiculous, sweeping statements, such as “image is everything to Prince Alwaleed”, he craves “outside validation”, and that “his paramount priority…is Forbes’ list of global billionaires.”
And there is a nastiness that permeates almost every paragraph. His palace is “absurdly opulent”, his publications are a “big-bucks information dump”, his plane has a “throne” for a chair, his “twentysomething wife” must fit her life into his schedule, and so on. It’s hard to read the article without noting an underlying sneer.
But what really got my attention was the analysis. Forbes went into significant depth on Alwaleed’s business, his investment strategy and his behavior / operating methods. And it’s shocking. The analysis is bad. And not just a little.
Read The Rest →
February 1st, 2013
There was a recent article in the Telegraph about how Prince Alwaleed passed on the Facebook IPO. It’s an interesting and overlooked question. Why did he pass? And I think the article got the real reason wrong.
But first, please sign up at the upper right to stay in touch. Thanks.
People forget Alwaleed has been buying tech companies in a big way for over 15 years. He is one of the largest and most sophisticated later-stage media / internet investors around.
He is a value investor at heart. As a financial investor located far away in Riyadh, his primary weapons in the tech space are his relationships (which are awesome) and his ability to deploy large capital quickly ($300m-$1B in a single day). Read The Rest →
January 29th, 2013
An interview with Kofi Bucknor, Managing Partner of Kingdom Africa Management and advisor to Prince Alwaleed
But first, please sign up on the upper right to stay in contact. Thanks.
In 2003, Prince Waleed made a surprising announcement. While the rest of the world was looking at tech stocks, housing booms and Asian growth opportunities, Waleed announced he was going to Africa. And he was going big.
It was a shocking idea. Almost no major investors were in Africa at that time. Africa was “stagnant”. Africa had political problems. Africa was the “lost continent”. The investor sentiment at that time could not have been more negative.
But Waleed is the world’s first global value investor. And he has, like most master value investors, a finely- tuned radar for when market sentiment is wrong or overly pessimistic. And Africa looked like a continent-sized mispriced value play.
Read The Rest →
October 12th, 2011
By Jeffrey Towson / 杰弗里·陶森
这座大厦将坐落在沙特阿拉伯西部港市吉达，由阿尔瓦利德王子和世界最大房地产公司Emaar共同开发，后者建造了迪拜第一高楼Burj Khalifa——这座828米的大厦也是目前世界最高楼。以我在这座大楼工作几年的经历，我可以证实，摩天大楼确实比你想象中更酷。而下一座新的世界第 一高楼酷在哪里？
Read The Rest →
July 5th, 2011
You can go to the Tradestreaming link to hear the audio.
The Tradestreaming Introduction is pasted in below. Note: in the audio my title was said to be Chief Investment Officer which is not correct. This correction is also noted below in the text and on their site.
Saudi’s Prince Waleed took $30k and investing globally, turned it into $22 billion — all with staff of only 2 or 3.
He was able to accomplish this by applying a framework to invest globally. Like Buffett, Waleed is a value investor. But the similarities end there — Waleed is a deal maker, on the prowl to see where he can add value and how.
In this podcast, we’re joined by Jeff Towson, who was Head of Direct Investments Middle East/North Africa and Asia Pacific for Waleed** for almost 10 years. He’s written a new book describing the Waleed model,What Would Ben Graham Do Now: A New Value Investing Playbook for a Global Age. He explores the essential question of our day: how does a foreigner properly invest in emerging markets?
In today’s episode of Tradestreaming Radio, we discuss:
- ways global value investing differs from what Warren Buffett did so well
- how Waleed and others like him find and invest in value in inherently chaotic environments
- why global investing is a hybrid of investment banker, business development exec and investing
- what geographies Towson is looking at now for their investment potential
** In the audio of this program, I mistakenly refer to Towson as Waleed’s Chief Investment Officer. His correct title was Head of Direct Investments Middle East/North Africa and Asia Pacific.
March 16th, 2011
Note: Kingdom Holding and Batelco have scrapped their bid. So this article (published in March 2011 after they made their bid) is now out of date.
On Tuesday, Prince Waleed, whom Forbes labeled the “Prince of deals”, lived up to his name and made an apparently successful $950M bid (in partnership with Bahraini Batelco) for Zain’s Saudi mobile business. It was the culmination of an over six year effort to break into the Saudi telecommunications business.
The joint bid, which has been preliminarily accepted by the Zain Board, will secure 25% of Zain Saudi which is one of the three Saudi mobile service companies. His purchase of these Saudi assets will enable Kuwaiti Zain to now be purchased by UAE Etisalat (which holds the 2nd Saudi mobile license).
**Note: as of March 25, the Etisalat bid has been rejected by Zain. So the Waleed / Batelco bid is still in play.
Read The Rest →
June 11th, 2010
我相信，阿尔瓦利德王子的经历一定会成为许多中国投资者的标本。上世纪80年代，他怀揣着仅有的3万美元，一头扎进商海。历经20年打拼，总资产攀升到惊 人的280亿美元。与此同时，他也从最初的那个第三世界国家投资者跃升为国际名流，跻身金字塔的顶端。自此，全球媒体开始关注起这位来自阿拉伯的“巴菲 特”。
然而，阿尔瓦利德王子的阿拉伯神话并未落幕。2004年，他被“福布斯财富榜”评为世界第四大富豪、美国最大的私人境外投资者。3年后，他重金入主花旗银 行，成为该行的首席股东。紧接着他更大肆收购传媒公司，成为仅次于默多克的世界第二大传媒大亨。基于这些传奇，甚至连巴菲特都谦虚地称自己为“美国的阿尔 瓦利德”。
阿尔瓦利德王子为人所津津乐道的投资项目，莫过于他在中国银行、花旗银行、时代华纳和苹果等高端企业上的“押宝”。去年春天，他联合世界首富比尔·盖茨， 耗资37亿美元收购了四季酒店集团。从此，酒店资产成为阿尔瓦利德的投资新宠，其名下包括Fairmont、Movenpick等300多家遍及全球的大 酒店。
他的投资几乎渗透到人类生活的各个层面，参股的公司还包括迪斯尼、eBay、princeline.com以及新闻集团。王子的投资狂热从未停歇，投资视 野开始聚焦于房地产市场，他旗下的房地产项目已是整个陆家嘴面积的三倍之大。现如今，他在吉达（Jeddah）建造的摩天大楼高达1500 米，是三幢环球金融中心的总和。
在乘私人波音747奔波于世界各地之余，王子总是在沙特首都利雅得（Riyadh）的办公室内专心工作。在保守的沙漠国度，王子的不动产事业重心——王国 中心，位于利雅得最繁华的大道上。这幢高达300米的摩天大楼已成为沙特首都的地标。有趣的是，作为大楼的主人，王子自己的办公室却只坐落于顶楼一间不起 眼的小房间。
多数时间里，阿尔瓦利德住在位于利雅得北部的行宫里，那儿坐落着他为子女建造的小宫殿，此地在Google地图上很容易查到。可是，每逢周末，王子却保持 着阿拉伯特有的风俗习惯：在广袤的大沙漠中安营扎寨。不过，那个足以容纳数百位客人的营地已经无法满足王子的胃口。于是，他正设法在沙漠的东部兴建一个 120英亩的新营地。
2008年，阿尔瓦利德的惊人之举又让他登上了世界各大报刊的头版，他买下了惟一一架“空客A380”作为自己的私人座驾，这座“飞行城堡”的高度令人咋 舌，相当于5层楼房。每年8月，阿尔瓦利德便开始其遍及10-15个国家的环球之旅。他还从詹姆斯·邦德电影《巡弋飞弹》中汲取灵感，定做了一艘282英 尺长的游艇。他喜欢同家人一起驾着游艇，沐浴在地中海的阳光里，完成一个月的轻松旅途。
结果，他的眼神猛然间回到了我这边。让我措手不及的是，他将我之前呈交的报告书递还给我，上面满是他用绿色墨水勾画出来的横线和圈圈。随后，他便像打枪一 样抛出了一连串问题：整个项目需要多少现金？在市场上的比重如何？具体的操作性怎样？他的问题总是鞭辟入里的，并且，任何没有实际意义的回答都会被他无情 打断。10分钟后，我们的会议告一段落，另一小组人马立刻鱼贯而入。跟随在他身边的8年里，我已经熟悉了这种机关枪式的提问方式，而3分钟陈述时间，已经 是他所能给你的极限了。