EXCLUSIVE: Zawya close to US$40m sale

Thomson Reuters among front-runners understood to be finalising buyout of Middle East portal
EXCLUSIVE: Zawya close to US$40m sale
Zawya was founded in 2000 in London.
By Massoud A. Derhally
Thu 17 May 2012 12:44 PM

The sale of online finance and business portal Zawya is close to being finalised, Arabian Business can reveal. 

It is understood that the company will be sold for about US$40m and an announcement from the group is expected shortly.

Media giant Thomson Reuters is believed to have been negotiating a takeover of the company for some weeks, and sources suggest it is the most likely buyer.

The majority of the company’s 7m shares are held by Dubai investment company Saffar Holding, which sources say will receive between US$5 and US$6 per share.

Zawya was almost sold four years ago - just before the global financial crisis - for close to US$12 a share in a deal that would have valued the company at closer to US$80m.

Zawya, which was founded in 2000 in London, aggregates content across the MENA region and provides news coverage of the Middle East. It currently employs 200 staff in the UAE and Lebanon.

The company was launched by British-Iraqi investment banker Ihsan Jawad at the height of the dotcom boom, before relocating to Dubai and going into partnership with Dow Jones Newswires in 2006.

On top of its subscription service, the Zawya website attracts 750,000 visitors a month. With full membership costing less than US$6,000 a year, it is priced much lower than other information services providers like Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters, both of which have been expanding in the Middle East.

In 2009, Yahoo!, which runs the second-most popular internet search engine, agreed to buy Arabic-language internet venture Maktoob.com, the largest portal in the Arab world, for about US$165m.

Saffar Holdings had acquired a 60 percent stake in Zawya in 2001 and appointed corporate finance advisory company Arma Partners last October to advise on the sale of the portal.

Zawya Chief Financial Officer Kalpesh Desai declined to comment when contacted by Arabian Business.

In a statement to Arabian Business, a spokesperson for Thomson Reuters said: "As a matter of policy, Thomson Reuters does not comment on rumours or speculation about acquisitions."

Calls to Arma Partners and Al Saffar Capital were not returned.

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