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Saudi firm denies its accounts are frozen

A PRIVATELY held Saudi Arabian conglomerate facing stiff financial troubles because of defaults has denied reports its accounts in Kuwait have been frozen, and said it was pushing ahead with debt-restructuring plans.

Saad Group, headed by billionaire and major HSBC stakeholder Maan al-Sanea, said it will soon announce its proposal for a coordinating bank and four accounting firms to spearhead the restructuring process. That effort came after bankers in Saudi Arabia said the country's central bank ordered al-Sanea's accounts and those of five relatives frozen.

The moves have fueled concerns that Saad's problems may merely be the first to be publicly aired in an oil-rich kingdom that has prided itself on skirting the worst of the global economic meltdown.

Late last week, a Kuwaiti newspaper said the Kuwaiti central bank had frozen Saad Group's accounts, as well as those of another Saudi firm, because of US$750 million of debt.

Rumors denied

But Saad denied the report, saying the claim was "untrue" and that the rumors circulating about the company "stem from the circumstances of a private family issue."

A Saad spokesman in London yesterday declined to elaborate on the nature of that issue, and reiterated that the company's accounts in Saudi Arabia are stable.

Saad's problems came bubbling to the surface late last month after bankers in the country said the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority ordered a freeze on al-Sanea's accounts, as well as those of his wife and other relatives.

Saad had assets of US$30 billion in 2008 and interests in real estate, hospitals, banks and construction both in and outside Saudi Arabia.


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