Yahoo is establishing a new Middle East division following its acquisition of Arabia’s largest online portal Maktoob for an estimated €52 million.
The transaction has been in play since the Microsoft-Yahoo deal was announced but has been largely overshadowed by US-centric concerns.
The acquisition marks the first major foray of a US online portal giant in the Arabian market and is sure to set the pace for a wave of similar mergers or acquisitions. Yahoo senior VP, emerging markets, Keith Nilsson said the deal would accelerate the portals’ move into the Middle East.
“With this acquisition we are really going after the entire Arab region, from North Africa to the GCC region. The five markets that we will be focused on initially will be Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Jordan and Kuwait. Those are markets where Maktoob has operations. We will be looking to expand into other Arab countries in the future.”
Nilsson said now was the time to be investing in the Arab sector, with a population of 320 million people across the Arabic speaking world, and a multi-billion dollar offline ad market which is growing at 25 to 30%.
“We are looking to grow our audience of nearly 600 million users as rapidly as possible. We see the emerging markets as one of the areas where we see an opportunity to expand our global audiences,” he added. Maktoob has around 16.5 million active users. Yahoo won’t launch Arabic versions of its products until next year.
The Jordan-based portal has been around since the dotcom days and was founded in 1999, offering a free Arabic language online email service.
In 2005, the UAE-based equity group Abraaj Capital purchased 40% stake in the company for €3.6 million,
Meanwhile around 100 Beijing-based employees of China Yahoo have resigned after majority stakeholder Alibaba Group, demanded that they transfer to the group's Hangzhou headquarters or face redundancy, reports Media