Kingdom Holding to stay with Uber and Lyft

The Saudi Arabian investment company is also looking at investment opportunities in local family businesses, says chief executive

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Eng. Talal Ibrahim Al-Maiman, Chief Executive Officer, Kingdom Holding Company at Bloomberg Invest, Four Seasons Hotel.  Leslie Pableo for The National
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The chief executive of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal's Kingdom Holding company, which plans to focus more on investing in the Saudi market in 2019, said the firm intends to remain an investor in rival US ride-hailing outfits Uber and Lyft.

“We are an investment house, we do not leave our investment, we actually make money out of it,” said Talal Ibrahim Al Maiman at the Bloomberg Invest event in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, adding that there will be no conflict of interest.

“Uber is a much bigger player, much diversified … [while] Lyft is very much focused on the area of mobility and we believe in their management that is young and aggressive. There is always a place for more than one.”

Kingdom Holding is one of the investors in Dubai-headquartered ride-hailing firm Careem. Last month, Uber agreed to buy Careem for $3.1 billion (Dh11.39bn), and the Saudi Arabian company also owns a stake in California-based Lyft, which went public with an initial public offering last month.

Mr Al Maiman said "full firepower" is availble to deploy in the Saudi market in terms of fresh investments.

“2019 has been great a great year for us. We did the Careem deal, Lyft went public … we made huge returns. Now, somehow we have also invested in Uber through the [Careem] deal, it’s very exciting year. Full firepower is ready to be employed into the local market mainly,” said Mr Al Maiman, who added that the company will stay on the look out for potential foreign investment opportunities.

Kingdom Holding also sees investment opportunities in local Saudi family businesses and is upbeat over the government’s privatisation initiatives.

“The government is about to privatise some of the companies. Another bigger opportunity is in the family businesses – which really need institutionalisation, corporate governance and some kind of filters. We believe the kingdom will find the right opportunity within the family sector,” said Mr Al Maiman.

The company has also signed term sheets for a $1bn loan with two local banks and three international lenders.

Mr Al Maiman said that the company is now focusing up on balancing its investments from sectorial, geographical and industrial point of views.

“For example, we cannot just invest totally in the US and Saudi Arabia in finance, so we are trying to balance our portfolios with existing matured assets,” and through other means, he said.

Mr Al Maiman added that it is now time to focus more on Saudi market.

“We are really seeing a huge potential in Saudi Arabia, it’s a country we live in, where we operate from and the country that deserves much more from its investors to look at existing opportunities.”