SINGAPORE (AFP) – The United States remains obsessed with the September 11, 2001 attacks on its soil and is unlikely to allow Arab investment into sensitive areas, Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said in a report Monday.
Speaking to London’s Financial Times in a rare interview, the billionaire investor also said his Dubai-listed Kingdom Hotel Investments (KHI) has a one billion US dollar “war chest” and is looking to expand in Asia.
The Financial Times said it spoke with Alwaleed midway through his 10-day tour of Asia, which will take him to China for a meeting with President Hu Jintao this week.
“The US is still obsessed by 9/11 and sensitivities over security,” Alwaleed told The Financial Times, referring to the attacks which killed about 3,000 people and for which Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility.
He was quoted as saying the US is unlikely to allow Arab investment into airports, ports and other sensitive areas for several years as a result.
US security concerns over Arab investment gained prominence last year when DP World, controlled by the Dubai government, acquired US operations through a 6.9-billion-dollar acquisition of Peninsular and Oriental (P and O), a deal making it one of the world’s largest port operators.
Following fierce congressional opposition to the US part of the deal on security grounds, and despite the backing of President George W. Bush, the Dubai government decided to relinquish DP World’s operations at six US ports.
Alwaleed told The Financial Times the Dubai ports issue “was unique and that matter is behind us.”
The prince, whose Kingdom Holdings owns big stakes in US companies including Citigroup and News Corp, said he personally has had no problem investing and operating in the US.
But he said KHI, whose portfolio is currently focused on the Middle East and Africa, is looking to expand its Asian holdings.
Alwaleed, 51, is the company’s major shareholder.
“KHI has a war chest of one billion dollars and is actively looking to expand in China,
South Korea and the Philippines. Asia has huge potential,” he was quoted as saying.
The newspaper said his tour is taking him to Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, among other countries.
KHI is a hotel and resort investment company focused on the luxury market segment. It has strategic partnerships with hotel operators Four Seasons, Fairmont and Mِvenpick.
“There is a double impact in Asia,” Alwaleed told the newspaper. “Countries are growing fast on their own and also benefiting from the spillover effects of China’s growth.”