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Arab prince to keep Twitter shares

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal invested $300m in the social media giant in 2011.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal invested $300 million in the social media giant in late 2011.

DUBAI - Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal says he will not sell any of his shares in microblogging site Twitter Inc when it goes public, and expects the firm's IPO to hit the market later this year or in early 2014.

The prince, a nephew of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and owner of international investment firm Kingdom Holding, invested $300 million in the social media giant in late 2011.

"Clearly the speed they're moving with shows that they would like to IPO sooner than later. I believe it will happen either this year or early next year," Alwaleed said.

"Twitter is a very strategic investment for us. We believe that it is just beginning to touch the surface. We have invested $300 million in the company. We will be selling zero, nothing, at the IPO." He did not say whether he might buy new shares in the offer.

Alwaleed is a closely watched figure in international markets because of successful investments through Kingdom Holding in companies such as Citigroup and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Twitter has filed for an initial public offer of shares with US regulators, the company said on Thursday, taking a first step toward what would be Silicon Valley's most anticipated debut since Facebook Inc's listing last year.

"With the 300 million customers they have and half a billion tweets a day, the growth potential is tremendous," Alwaleed said. He said Chief Executive Dick Costolo was "very knowledgeable, very much trustworthy".

The market expects the company's value once listed to be more than $10 billion; Alwaleed sees potential for a much higher valuation.

Saudi Arabia, where Twitter use has been growing rapidly, has spent billions of dollars on welfare schemes to contain discontent and avoid unrest.

Alwaleed said, "There is no doubt that Twitter accelerated the process of disseminating news. It has to remain an open forum for everyone."

He added, "I'm totally against anybody who tries to control or censor Twitter or any other social media, even if it is governments. It's a losing war"