South African media giant Naspers is rumoured to be acquiring a stake worth approximately US$40 million in Al Jabbar Internet Group’s subsidiary Souq.com, in the largest investment in an e-commerce and Internet business in the Middle East since the 2009 sale of Arabic-language internet venture Maktoob.com to Yahoo!.
The agreement, according to sources familiar with the deal, is set to be announced in the coming two weeks.
Al Jabbar Internet Group’s CEO, Samih Toukan, said they were in talks with investors seeking to take a stake in the company, which has eight ventures under its umbrella including Souq.com, the largest e-commerce company in the region. Naspers declined to comment.
The value of e-commerce related transactions in the Middle East is reported to be about US$11 billion a year, according to Jawad Abassi, founder and general manager at Arab Advisors Group.
Souq.com competes with another Middle Eastern venture named Namshi, which was founded less than a year ago and sells shoes and clothing in the Middle East. Namshi secured US$20 million in financing from JP Morgan Chase and Blakeney Management last month and is set to expand regionally.
Toukan said: “The interest is there and we’re excited about it. Some of it is from [companies in] the region, some of it is from outside the region and is international.”
“Every month we’re growing at double digits from the month before. E-commerce is happening now in the Middle East, it’s being conquered, a lot of investment is being put into it,” Toukan further added.
Naspers is an international mass media company with principal operations in electronic media (including pay-television, internet and instant-messaging subscriber platforms and the provision of related technologies) and print media (including the publishing, distribution and printing of magazines, newspapers and books, and the provision of private education services).