(Updated) Confirmed: Breaking: Yahoo Acquires Maktoob The Largest Arab Portal, at an Estimated 100 Million USD

By Arab Crunch

 (Updated) Confirmed: Breaking: Yahoo Acquires Maktoob The Largest Arab Portal, at an Estimated 100 Million USD

Update: Video Interview here.

maktoob-yahoo-logo (Updated) Confirmed: Breaking: Yahoo Acquires Maktoob The Largest Arab Portal, at an Estimated 100 Million USD

More Updates here: Jabbar acquired e-Marketing MENA.

Update: Yahoo press release is the the end of this post, Financial terms were not disclosed, but my sources say the deal is over than 100 million.

Update: As we said other Maktoob websites that are not branded under Maktoob will be called “Jabbar” a new company separate from Yahoo! (souq.com, Cashu, tahadi MMO games, Araby.com and Maktoob Research.) maktoob.com will be called  Yahoo Middle East and products will be cobranded Yahoo and Maktoob. ( ArabCrunch was 1st to break the acquisition deal world wide.)

Update: It is official, YAHOO buying maktoob! Yahoo has 20 million users in the Arab world maktoob 16 million according to Maktoob Business.

Update: After 2 days Yahoo products will be made Arabic and content Arabized. Yahoo Messenger and Yahoo Mail will be first to be Arabized.

Keith Neillson VP emerging markets Yahoo! was speaking spoke during the press conference.

Updates before the press conference confirmation:

Yahoo-logo (Updated) Confirmed: Breaking: Yahoo Acquires Maktoob The Largest Arab Portal, at an Estimated 100 Million USD

Update1: Story is folding,  Yahoo will announce in a press conference shortly.

Update2: The number is bigger than 100 million USD, a source told AC was told.

Update 3: The deal will include maktoob.com but not maktoob group as I was told, stay tuned for updates here.

The talks between Yahoo and Maktoob have been around for 2 years now, but in the last few months, it was confirmed to ArabCrunch that the talks are serious.

Yesterday 24th of August 2009 was historical day for the Arab Internet and Tech industry if the news tips we got were proven to be right (Confirmed and the press conferences is up now), as according to reliable sources Yahoo team signed a deal to acquire Maktoob the largest Arab portal yesterday, the price is not clear but estimated at around 100 million USD. (Update: Financial terms were not disclosed, but my sources say they are more than 100 million USD.)

Update: According to the sources, there will be a press conference soon with half an hour.

This deal is significant, because it is the largest acquisition that happened in the tech sector in the Arab world since ever. It means allot, now Venture Capitalist (VC) and investors will see that there is an exit in funding they put into startups from the Arab world. Which means there will be more VCs and funding activities happing in the Arab world, which means more Arab startups and more jobs!

What we need next, is to see a world class IPO for an internet or a technology startup from the Arab world especially in the Internet space.

Maktoob started back  around  1997 as the first Arabic web-based email, founded in Amman, Jordan by Samih Toukan and Husam Khouri. The web-based email reached around 115000 users within a year, the company received funding from EFG HERMEZ and then Abbraaj Capital which sold its equity to Tiger Global Management. Maktoob now operates over a dozen of websites under Maktoob brand ranging from search (via Araby.com) web mail, social networking, blogging platform, sports, Q&As, photo and video sharing. Today Maktoob visitors stand around 16 million a month, as the largest portal in the Arab world from the Arab world.

Official press release from Maktoob Business:

RELEASE: Yahoo! Maktoob acquisition

Aug 25, 2009

Yahoo! to Extend Reach to Millions of Consumers in the Arab World; Signs Definitive Agreement to Acquire Maktoob.com

Combination of local expertise and global scale to provide best online experience for consumers in the Arab world and platform for advertisers in the region

SUNNYVALE, Calif. & DUBAI, Aug 25, 2009 — Yahoo! Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO) today announced 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.”

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Tarek is the founder and chief researcher at Youngberry, a youth research and marketing firm dedicated to the region. Tarek founded interactiveME.com and previously worked as Manager at Flip Media (Interactive Agency), Bayt.com (Job Site) and Consulting House Qatar (Consulting firm). He is researcher and writer on internet & disruptive innovation, entrepreneurship, and youth culture.