Falling in line with earlier reports, Amazon is finally ready to lead its Middle Eastern intervention with the acquisition of Dubai-based online retailer Souq.com. Amazon hasn’t lifted the veil of this transaction as of yet, but sources aware of the developments have stated that it has agreed in principle to buy 100 percent of Souq.com from its shareholders.
According to Financial Times, the transaction is being valued at somewhere between $650-$750 million, which is lower as compared to $1 billion in previous reports. This acquisition is expected to end the nine-month sale process for Souq.com, who’s been looking for a buyer after investors Tiger Global and Naspers sought an exit.
And this opened a window of opportunity for Amazon, who is always on the lookout for global brands to expand its business and kill further competition. Amazon was, however, not the bidder for Souq’s business. It also piqued the interest of Dubai’s business tycoon Mohamed Alabbar, chairman of real-estate company Emaar. But, his bid was rejected for being too low, suggest sources aware of the developments.
Earlier, the Dubai-based e-commerce major had been looking to dispose of only 30 percent stake in the company, but the deal seems to have come through for the entirety of their business. This falls in line with previous reports, but Souq.com would’ve been valued at over $1 billion. The company would have become the first unicorn of the region with this transaction, but the value has since slipped.
Souq.com, founded in 2005 by Ronaldo Mouchawar, is the largest online retailer in the Arab world. Much like every other e-tailer, the website offers more than 1.5 million products across categories such as consumer electronics, fashion products, and household goods. Operating both an online retail store and a marketplace, it is often referred to as the ‘Amazon of the Middle East.’ This was launched as an online auction website but pivoted to the said model in 2011.
Amazon, as fresh reports suggest, has delayed its expansion plans for Southeast Asia at the moment, which were expected to begin with Singapore. And it now seems to be diverting all its attention towards the Middle East, where Souq will help it get off the ground with its already established brand value and infrastructure.
While Amazon is usually known to operate globally under its own brand moniker, but Souq’s volume of transactions might’ve incited it to go through with this transaction. Souq.com boasts of attracting more than 23 million users per month and caters to the needs of local Middle Eastern markets – Egypt, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Souq has managed to snag $425 million via four funding rounds which saw participation from Naspers, Tiger Global Management, International Finance Corporation, Standard Chartered, and others.