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Shares of Saudi prince's firm surge after his release

Kingdom Holding's share price surged after Alwaleed bin Talal was released on Saturday
Saudi Arabian royal Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud looking on during a meeting with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake in Colombo (AFP)

Shares in Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal's Kingdom Holding surged on Sunday after he was released following three months of detention by the Saudi government.

The share price of the company, 95 percent of which is owned by Alwaleed, rose the maximum allowed 10 percent at the start of the week's trading, regaining its level from before the arrest.

The share price dropped sharply when Alwaleed was arrested in November in an anti-corruption drive by the government, but had partially regained some of the losses.

Alwaleed was the most high-profile detainee among 350 suspects rounded up, including business tycoons and ministers, who were held in Riyadh's luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel.

The prince was released following an undisclosed financial agreement with the government, similar to deals that authorities struck with most other detainees in exchange for their freedom.

Kingdom Holding, traded on the Saudi Tadawul All-Shares Index (TASI), has been one of Saudi Arabia's most important investors, with shares in US tech giant Apple and social media site Twitter among others.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), the 32-year-old son of the king, has spearheaded the unprecedented crackdown on corruption among members of the government and royal family as he consolidates his grip on power in the kingdom.

According to informed sources, MbS was demanding that Alwaleed sign over ownership of the entire Kingdom Holding Company and Alwaleed had been refusing to do this. If a settlement was not reached, Alwaleed was set to demand a trial.

In an interview with Reuters on Saturday, the prince had said he expected to soon be released.

"There are no charges. There are just some discussions between me and the government," he said in the interview, conducted shortly after midnight. "I believe we are on the verge of finishing everything within days.

"I told the government I'd stay as much as they want because I want the truth to come out on all my dealings and on all things that are around me.

State news agency Al Arabiya reported earlier this week: "Only a couple of days till cases of corruption-related settlements are closed in preparation for referring remaining defendants to the public prosecution," citing what it called an infographic created by the public prosecutor.

"Ninety-five people are still detained."

The government on Friday also released a number of other detainees including Waleed al-Ibhrahim, head of the MBC media giant, Khaled Tuwaijri, former chief of the Saudi royal court, and Turki bin Nasser, former head of the country's meteorology agency.

The government has released other high-profile detainees in recent weeks such as former National Guard chief Prince Miteb bin Abdullah following his "settlement" with authorities reportedly exceeding $1bn.

Authorities have said most of those detained struck monetary settlements in exchange for their freedom, which could earn state coffers about $100bn.

The windfall settlements will help the government finance a multi-million dollar package announced by King Salman this month to help citizens cope with the rising cost of living, Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan told Al Arabiya television in Davos on Wednesday.

Some critics have labelled the campaign a shakedown, but authorities insist the purge was aimed to target endemic corruption as Saudi Arabia seeks to diversify its oil-dependent economy.

The Ritz-Carlton is set to re-open for business next month as the campaign draws to an end, sources at the hotel have said. Its website lists rooms as available from 14 February.

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