February 4, 2015 / 11:29 AM / in 3 years

Saudi's Kingdom Holding sells 5.6 percent stake in News Corp

Owner of Saudi Arabia's Kingdom Holding, billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal attends the traditional Saudi dance known as 'Arda', which was performed during Janadriya culture festival at Der'iya in Riyadh February 18, 2014.Fayez Nureldine/Pool

DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's Kingdom Holding 4280.SE, the investment firm owned by billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, sold most of its stake in media giant News Corp (NWSA.O) as part of a portfolio review, it said on Wednesday.

The sale of a 5.6 percent stake in News Corp generated 705 million riyals ($188 million) of cash for Kingdom and leaves it with a one percent holding, according to a bourse statement. The amount of profit or loss booked on the investment was not disclosed.

Kingdom has held a stake in Rupert Murdoch's media conglomerate since 1997, according to its website.

It has been a turbulent few years for the media company, after it emerged in 2011 that one of its British tabloid newspapers, the now-defunct News of the World, had been hacking phones and bribing public officials.

News Corp said on Tuesday it would face no charges in the United States over the matter, although it still faces multiple investigations and court cases in Britain.

"We remain firm believers in News Corp’s competent management, led by chief executive Robert Thomson, and are fully supportive of Rupert Murdoch and his family," Alwaleed said in a separate emailed statement.

The action would not impact on Kingdom's 6.6 percent holding of Twenty-First Century Fox (FOXA.O), the emailed statement added.

Both News Corp and Twenty-First Century Fox were part of the same company until they were spun off into separate listed entities in June 2013, representing the previous firm's publishing and broadcasting businesses respectively.

SALE PROCESS

The sale of shares by Kingdom was "predominantly executed" in the first half of 2014 and finalised by the end of the year, the statement said.

News Corp hit its highest level since the stock was split on Mar. 5, 2014, when it traded intraday at $18.53, and was as high as $18.29 on July 24 before slipping to an intraday low of $14.28 on Oct. 16, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The media firm, which is due to report second-quarter earnings on Friday, closed on Tuesday at $15.61.

Kingdom's stake decreased from 13.18 million class B shares, representing approximately 6.6 percent ownership, to 2 million class B shares, representing around 1 percent ownership.

The funds generated from the sale will be reinvested elsewhere, the English-language bourse statement said.

However, in an Arabic-language statement on the bourse website, Kingdom also said part of the proceeds will be used to reduce some of the company's debts.

Additional Reporting by Nadia Saleem and Sami Aboudi in Dubai and Marwa Rashad in Riyadh; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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