Yahoo Acquires Arab Internet Portal Maktoob


Yahoo has just officially acquired Maktoob, a very popular Arabic web portal that offers services including search, payments, social network, and auctions. Rumors of an aquisition have been building for months, and in the last hour they reached a head as news of an impending press conference broke. The price hasn’t been announced, but our sources say $85 million.

The MaktoobBusiness Twitter acccount notes that the deal will unite “Yahoo’s 20 million users from the Arab world with Maktoob’s 16 million”, with Vice President Ahmed Nassef stating that it will bring “a sea change in the industry.”

Up until now, Yahoo has held a weak presence in the Arab region, with no dedicated portal to speak of (though it still managed to attract millions of Arab users to its sites). The deal effectively gives Yahoo an instant foothold in the market. According to MaktoobBusiness, products will be cobranded with Yahoo and Maktoob, with the deal completing in the fourth quarter and new products rolling out next year.

However, the deal does not include a number of Maktoob’ products, including Souq (an eBay-like auction site), CashU (prepaid card payment system), Araby (search), and Tahadi MMO games. These will become part of Jabbar Internet Group, which we hear may be headed by one of Maktoob’s founders.

Maktoob launched in the late 90’s as the first free Arabic Email service provider. Since then it has grown to encompass a variety of services, including payments, gaming, search, and auctions. According to comScore, Maktoob has seen very impressive growth over the last year, growing from 6 million unique visitors in June 2008 to 21.8 million a year later. Likewise, its page views have grown from 406 million to 1.1 billion over the same time frame.

Update: Yahoo has now confirmed to acquisition on its blog:

Breaking news from the other side of the world: Yahoo may well have acquired Maktoob, a leading Arab internet portal that encompasses a variety of services including search, Email, social network, and more. As reported on Arabcrunch (which is unaffiliated with TechCrunch), a press conference announcing the deal appears to be imminent.

We’re still working to confirm the news, but there are indications that the acquisition will be officially announced within minutes. A Twitter account called MaktoobBusiness, which we believe to be affiliated with the company, is currently tweeting about a Yahoo press conference, where founders and the GM of Maktoob are attending alongside Yahoo’s emerging market team. Rumors of a deal between Yahoo and Maktoob have been swirling for many months, but details have remained scant. Arabcrunch reports that the acquisition price exceeds $100 million — we are working to confirm these details.

Maktoob launched in the late 90’s as the first free Arabic Email service provider. Since then it has grown to encompass a variety of services, including payments, gaming, search, and auctions. According to comScore, Maktoob has seen very impressive growth over the last year, growing from 6 million unique visitors in June 2008 to 21.8 million a year later. Likewise, its page views have grown from 406 million to 1.1 billion over the same time frame.

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