The world’s largest oil producer has agreed to a deal to sell more than 60% of its remaining assets, including its flagship Al Jazeera World satellite television and digital media assets, in a deal that is likely to raise concerns about the viability of a company struggling to cope with the fallout from the crisis.
Key points:The deal will see the majority of its assets sold to Al Jazeera Global Ltd in a $4.5 billion sale that is expected to close in the first quarter of 2019The deal could see Al Jazeera sell more of its stake in Al Jazeera English to US media group NBCUniversalThe deal also will see Al-Jazeera buy out a stake in CNN’s online news service, TheBlaze, which is owned by CNN’s parent company Time Warner.
The deal is expected in the coming weeks, with a preliminary agreement expected to be completed by the end of next year.
The agreement is worth $2.2 billion, a significant boost from the $1.5-billion that Al Jazeera spent in 2014, but a paltry sum compared with the $15 billion Al Jazeera received in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
Al Jazeera, which launched in 2001, has been beset by crisis since 2009, when it was forced to close its offices in Qatar amid allegations of state-sponsored terrorism.
The collapse of the Qatar crisis in 2022 brought about an unprecedented period of economic turmoil that brought the Arab world to the brink of its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
The US, Europe and Japan all imposed sanctions against Qatar in response to its alleged support for the Islamic State militant group.
Al-Jihadist cleric Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Qatar’s ruler, had been living in exile in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) since being forced out of power by the uprising against his rule in 2022.
He was later exiled to the United States, where he remains.
Al Thani has long denied any involvement in terrorism and says he is fighting against “the infidel”, the group that has been designated a terrorist organisation by the United Nations.
Last month, Qatar announced that it would end its financial blockade of its neighbors, and that it will open its airspace to foreign flights.
It also announced that a new, expanded border crossing at Doha International Airport would be opened on January 10.
The move has been hailed by Qataris as a major victory for their long-running fight against international isolation and has been greeted by the UAE, which has criticised Qatar for “providing sanctuary to terrorist organisations”.
Al Jazeera English is the English-language home of Al Jazeera and is the flagship outlet for the Al Jazeera network.
The network has been struggling to maintain its audience and profitability, and its parent company has also seen a decline in its subscriber base.
The $3.5bn deal will help Al Jazeera boost its revenue, but it will also increase pressure on the Qataris to continue to fund its media operations.
The Qataris are keen to sell Al Jazeera’s remaining stake in the channel to US-based NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News, in an $8 billion deal that will be announced later this year.
In December, the Al-Qaeda-linked group claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing that killed 58 people at a mosque in Dhahran, southern Saudi Arabia, in which dozens were wounded.