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Amazon buys Souq in big play for Middle East market

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The logo of US online retail giant Amazon is displayed on the Brieselang logistics center, west of Berlin on November 11, 2014. The center is one of nine in Germany. AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)

DUBAI — Amazon has had its eye on the Middle East for some time. Now it’s finally made a move.

It has agreed to buy the region’s biggest e-commerce platform, Souq.com.

“Joining the Amazon family will enable souq.com to continue growing while working with Amazon to bring even more products and offerings to customers worldwide,” Souq said in a statement.

The statement did not disclose the size of the deal. CB Insights valued Souq at more than a billion dollars, after it raised $275 million from investors last year. Souq does not disclose financial information.

Amazon had to beat off local competition for the online marketplace.

Emaar Malls, an arm of Dubai’s biggest real estate developer, said on Monday it bid $800 million for Souq.com.

Founded 10 years ago by Ronaldo Mouchawar, Samih Toukan and Hussam Khoury, Souq has become the biggest player in the market. Mouchawar estimates online shopping in the Middle East was worth $20 billion in 2016.

When Souq started out, e-commerce was virtually unknown in the Middle East. Back then, the company employed five people in Dubai. Now it has 3,000 workers across the Arab world and sells more than 8 million products in 31 categories.

Analysts at Standard Chartered estimate that e-commerce in the region is growing by 30% each year, and that many markets remain untapped.

The acquisition is expected to close this year.

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