Yahoo! Inc.has announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Maktoob.com, the leading online community in the Arab world, with more than 16.5 million unique users.
“This acquisition will accelerate Yahoo!’s strategy of expanding in high-growth emerging markets where we believe Yahoo! has unparalleled opportunity to become the destination of choice for consumers,” said Yahoo! chief executive officer Carol Bartz. “Access to information and communications tools can positively impact people’s lives in many ways, and with the acquisition of Maktoob.com and our investment in the region, the Arab world will soon get a Yahoo! experience in Arabic with relevant local language content, programming and services.”
Internet users in the region will benefit from the combination of Yahoo!’s popular products and services with Maktoob’s compelling local content, which today reaches one in three people online throughout the Arab world. This acquisition will extend Yahoo!’s current offerings by adding capabilities to deliver relevant Arabic-language content and services, as well as Arabic versions of Yahoo!’s popular Yahoo! Messenger and Yahoo! Mail services. Maktoob.com is accessed by users in countries that include UAE, Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
“Yahoo! and Maktoob are natural partners and this combination should help energize the Internet market in the region as a whole. We are excited about Yahoo! building a stronger presence in the Middle East and bringing its compelling suite of services to Arab users in Arabic,” said Samih Toukan, Founder of Maktoob.
While Internet usage in the Middle East has grown more than tenfold since 2000, most markets are still in the early stages of adoption. According to the World Bank, there are more than 320 million Arabic speakers worldwide, while less than one per cent of all online content is in Arabic.
With Yahoo! and Maktoob.com’s combined audience and platform, advertisers will have access to the reach and sophisticated targeting capabilities they need to effectively engage with the region’s online consumers. Spending on online advertising is expected to grow by 35 – 40 percent this year in the region, according to Madar Research.
“Internet users in the Arab world will have access to Yahoo!’s vast content portfolio, as well as world-class communications products, which will be available in Arabic for the first time. In addition, advertisers will be able to leverage the vast reach of the newly combined audiences to effectively market to consumers across the region,” said Ahmed Nassef, general manager of Maktoob.com.
Maktoob.com was founded in 2000 by Samih Toukan and Hussam Khoury as the world’s first free Arabic/English Web-based email service, and since then has grown to be the leading Arab online community in the region.
“Yahoo is acquiring Maktoob.com for the strong brand and audience it has built over the last nine years and the passionate team they have assembled, which we believe is the strongest in the region,” said Keith Nilsson, senior vice president, Emerging Markets, Yahoo! “We see great growth potential in both audience and advertising in the Arab world and combining with Maktoob.com will allow us to quickly build our presence there with high quality products. This is a big win for publishers, advertisers, and consumers in the region.”
This acquisition is part of Yahoo!’s larger strategy to grow its business throughout the world’s emerging markets by connecting consumers with the content and services that matter most to them in their local language. The company’s Emerging Markets business group, headquartered in Singapore, is responsible for Yahoo!’s fastest growing markets such as South East Asia, India, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. Yahoo! has a strong track record of delivering great Internet experiences and helping fuel Internet adoption through partnerships with local developers and content providers.
Following the acquisition, Maktoob.com will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Yahoo!. Ahmed Nassef, the current general manager of Maktoob.com, will continue to lead the Maktoob.com teams and will report to Keith Nilsson. It is expected that the transaction will be completed in the fourth quarter of 2009.
Upon completion of the deal, the remaining Maktoob Group companies – including Souq.com, cashU.com, Araby.com, and Tahadi.com – will operate under a new entity called the Jabbar Internet Group, managed by Samih Toukan. Yahoo! and the Jabbar Internet Group will continue to have a strong commercial relationship going forward, which will include the promotion of Jabbar companies on the Maktoob.com portal.
Financial terms were not disclosed.