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Last updated: February 23, 2010 12:26 pm
Rotana Media, the broadcaster and music group owned by Saudi billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, said it had agreed to sell a $70m stake to News Corp, Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire.
Rotana said on Tuesday that News Corp had agreed to buy a 9.09 per cent stake with an option to take this up to 18.18 per cent.
The move will mark News Corp’s most significant investment so far in the Middle East, where faster GDP growth, a young population and maturing advertising markets have begun to draw US and European media groups facing slow growth in their home markets.
”This is a qualitative leap not just for Rotana but for the whole Arab world,” Prince Alwaleed told a press conference. ”We are set to gain deep experience from News Corp ... on television, movie production and technology,” he said. ”They own MySpace ... We can learn from this, the new media field.”
The acquisition will also tie the Murdoch family closer to one of their most important shareholders.
Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holdings owns 7 per cent, or 56m shares, of News Corp’s class B stock and is the largest shareholder outside the Murdoch family.
The prince is not on News Corp’s board of directors, but last month anointed James Murdoch, head of News Corp’s European and Asian operations, as his father’s eventual successor.
“If he [Rupert Murdoch] doesn’t appoint him, I’ll be the first one to nominate him to be the successor of Mr Rupert Murdoch, God forbid if something happens to him,” the prince told Charlie Rose, a US television interviewer.
Rotana, which owns a variety of media assets from an online music video on demand site modelled on News Corp’s Hulu joint venture to a large library of music from the region, already shows programming from News Corp’s Fox channels in Saudi Arabia through its free-to-air television network.
An investment in Rotana has been under discussion for some time and many expected a deal to be done last autumn. One person familiar with the deal described it as ”small but symbolic”.
The decision to invest follows meetings between Mr Murdoch and Prince Alwaleed in New York in January, when the pair discussed a “future potential alliance with News Corp”, according to a statement on the Kingdom Holdings website. The day-to-day relationship between News Corp and Rotana is likely to be managed by James Murdoch’s team, however.
News Corp declined to comment.
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