Africa’s largest media company, Naspers, has invested $75m in Souq.com, a UAE-based online retailer that is a subsidiary of Al Jabbar Internet Group and is also now the largest e-commerce portal in MENA, with 23 million visits per month and more than 6.2 million registered users.
Naspers now owns a 36% stake in Souq.com, inclusive of a previous investment of $40m in the online retailer made by the Johannesburg-listed media giant back in 2012. Aside from Al Jabbar Internet Group, Tiger Global is also a major investor in Souq.com.
Founded in 2005 by CEO Ronaldo Mouchawar, the generalist online retailer has grown particularly strongly over the past two years and expanded tenfold. Meanwhile, according to Jawad Abassi, founder at Arab Advisors Group, the value of ecommerce related transactions in the Middle East stands at about $11bn a year, and could rise to as much as $15bn by 2015.
“Our traffic share from other markets is growing faster [than in Dubai], and we have more customers in Saudi Arabia than in Dubai. Currently, the site has a 65% repeat customer rate,” noted Ronaldo Mouchawar in an interview with wamda.com.
The deal is also the second largest investment made in an ecommerce and internet business in the Middle East since the sale of Arabic-language portal Maktoob.com for $165m in 2009. The total value of capital raised to date by Souq.com for new technology and services is $150m.
This places the online retailer beyond rivals such as Namshi, which sells shoes and clothing and has raised $34m, and MarkaVIP, which sells a range of luxury products and has raised a sum of $18m. Speculators meanwhile place the value of Souq.com at upwards of $400m.
Naspers is in turn Africa’s largest media conglomerate with interests in TV, publishing and online platforms in Europe, India, Russia and extending into China, where it has a stake in instant messaging leader Tencent, and even Brazil, where it owns magazine publisher Abril.
The largest shareholder in Naspers is long-time CEO Koos Bekker, though he will be stepping down from this role this April.