March 8, 2013
His Royal Highness Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Kingdom Holding Company officials would like to stress that their disagreement with Forbes is over the fairness and objectivity of the valuation process and affirmation of respected Saudi financial institutions, not placement levels on a list.
To that end, Mr. Shadi Sanbar, CFO Kingdom Holding Company would offer the following additional context to points covered in the press release:
1. Lack of consistency
A key issue is using the fair market value of Kingdom Holding Company shares traded on the Saudi stock exchange – the Tadawul. For the past 6 years, Forbes has accepted the fair market value of KHC shares determined by open market trading in the Tadawul, as they should have since the Tadawul is a fully regulated Bourse with credibility in the financial community and whose valuations have been used by banks for reporting and compliance purposes for many years.
For unsatisfactorily explained reasons, the Tadawul’s share values for KHC were not accepted by Forbes in 2013, apparently based on rumors from unidentified sources that stock manipulation is a “national sport” in Saudi Arabia. While this is insulting to the regulating bodies that oversee the Tadawul, our issue is that it now sets up a different set of standards for Prince Alwaleed that need not be in place.
2. Lack of comparability between Kingdom Holding Company in 2007 when it went public and today in 2013
Another fundamental issue with the Forbes process is the inexplicable refusal by Forbes to acknowledge that Kingdom Holding Company is a very different company today than when it went public in 2007. While Market Cap is nearly the same, the make-up and value of the assets is very different. This can be seen by studying the financial statements of the company.
3. Accuracy, transparency and timeliness in reporting of financial results
An implication in the accompanying Forbes article is that KHC is less than transparent in its financial reporting and that even our auditors were suspicious. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the Tadawul and the Capital Markets Authority that oversees it apply more stringent standards on public reporting than companies reporting in the West. KHC is required to file auditor’s reviews complete with disclosures for all four quarters within fifteen working days from the end of the quarter. Full year reports are required to be filed within forty-five days. KHC has never missed a deadline and our reports are publicly available.
4. Change of Auditor Firms
Another suggestion made in Forbes reporting was that KHC changed auditor firms to Price Waterhouse after Ernst and Young had questions about the value of KHC holdings. Not true. Corporate Governance experts in the aftermath of Enron recommend changing auditor firms with regularity and Saudi Arabia requires public companies to change auditors every three years. The switch to Price Waterhouse was part of this mandated switch. There were no disputes with Ernst and Young who would have been required to disclose them if they existed.
5. Mr. Forbes acknowledgement of our concerns
Mr. Forbes has acknowledged our concerns with the Forbes process, most recently in a letter to me (Shadi) dated February 25, 2013 in which he pledged Forbes would strive for accuracy. We were obviously disappointed with the result.
THU 07 MAR 13 | 03:35 PM ET