Democratic U.S. senator wants probe into Saudi firm's stake in Twitter

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Democratic U.S. Senator Chris Murphy said on Monday he wants a U.S. national security review of a Saudi Arabian conglomerate's stake in Twitter Inc after Elon Musk's takeover of the social media company.

Murphy said he was asking the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) — which reviews acquisitions of U.S. businesses by foreign buyers — "to conduct an investigation into the national security implications of Saudi Arabia's purchase of Twitter."

Most foreigners seeking to take even noncontrolling stakes in U.S. companies must seek approval from CFIUS, a powerful Treasury-led committee that reviews transactions for national security concerns and has the power to block them.

On Friday, Saudi Arabia's Kingdom Holding Company and the private office of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said they will continue their ownership of Twitter shares valued at $1.89 billion, according to a statement tweeted by Prince Alwaleed.

"The deal is in line with the long-term investment strategy which Kingdom Holding Company is known for," the statement said.

Alwaleed's Kingdom Holding is 16.9% owned by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, which is chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

"We should be concerned that the Saudis, who have a clear interest in repressing political speech and impacting U.S. politics, are now the second-largest owner of a major social media platform," Murphy wrote on Twitter "There is a clear national security issue at stake and CFIUS should do a review."

The Saudi embassy in Washington did not immediately comment. Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for U.S. Treasury, which leads CFIUS, declined to comment.

Musk last week closed the $44 billion deal announced in April to take Twitter private. Banks including Morgan Stanley and Bank of America Corp committed to provide $13 billion in debt financing.

(Reporting by David Shepardson in WashingtonEditing by Franklin Paul and Matthew Lewis)

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