Dubai tycoon aims at monopolising Middle East's online souq

Dubai tycoon aims at monopolising Middle East's online souq
2 min read
14 November, 2016
Backed by Saudi investers, an Emirati businessman has launched an online retailer to overtake souq.com and win the region's battle of the online bazaars.
The site will launch with an initial inventory of 20 million products [Getty]

A Dubai billionaire has launched a shopping website to rival Souq.com - described as the "Amazon of the Middle East" - and win over the region's online shoppers.

Noon.com - backed by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, is to go live in January 2017 - with distribution centres being set up in Riyadh and Jeddah and aided by a massive warehouse in Dubai.

"We expect to become a world player but will concentrate firstly on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates," said businessman Mohamed al-Abbar, who is behind the $1 billion project.

Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund has invested 50 percent into the e-commerce site with the rest backed by some 60 Gulf investors led by Abbar, president of real estate company Emaar which built the world's tallest building, Dubai's Burj Khalifa.

Alabbar told a press conference that distribution centres are being set up in the Saudi cities of Riyadh and Jeddah, along with a giant warehouse the size of 60 football pitches in Dubai.

He said Noon.com would "turn the e-commerce environment in the Middle East upside down".

Noon will have an initial inventory of 20 million products, including fashion, books, home and garden, electronics, sports and outdoor, health and beauty, toys, and children's and baby products.

There are also hopes the online retailer will expand to Egypt, the Arab world's most populous state, at the end of next year or early 2018.

Abbar, quoted by Bloomberg, said Noon would be traded on stock markets after five to seven years.

With e-commerce growing fast in the Middle East, the region's Souq.com, founded in 2005 as an auction site before expanding into general retail, is often described as "the Amazon of the Middle East".

In February, Souq.com announced it had raised $273 million from international investors to finance expansion plans.

Business tycoon Abbar last month confirmed he was considering launching a phone messaging app akin to Whatsapp.