Amazon.com Inc’s Middle Eastern rival Noon.com is set to draw as much as $2 billion in financing from investors including Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund over three to four years, as it seeks to capture a larger slice of the Gulf e-commerce market.
The investments from the Public Investment Fund and others will be used to upgrade infrastructure and help speed up deliveries, Noon founder Mohamed Alabbar said late on Sunday. “They are happy with our progress and they are happy to fund,” he said.
The Middle East has been slower to adapt to e-commerce than other regions, although lockdowns to combat the coronavirus pandemic last year have accelerated the shift to online shopping and food delivery. Alabbar said e-commerce currently accounts for 2 percent to 2.5 percent of total retail in the region, compared with 20 percent to 22 percent in the western world and China.
Noon operates in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt and is looking to expand in other nations across the Middle East. The PIF, as the Saudi wealth fund is known, declined to comment.
“We have a long way to go,” Alabbar said. “There is a lot of room for growth and a lot of countries to cover.”
Alabbar, who owns 50 percent of Noon jointly with other regional private investors, raised $1 billion from backers including the PIF to create the firm in 2016. It now has about 4 million daily users and growth is accelerating as it pushes into grocery delivery.
“Traffic is growing on a monthly basis,” Alabbar said. “We’re easily doubling every year and the volume of package delivery is up almost 2.5 times.”
Any new funding for Noon would come amid a wave of tech investments in the region. In June, a PIF unit led a new financing round for Jordan-based online classifieds business OpenSooq.com, which is looking to triple headcount across the Middle East. Sanabil, another unit of the wealth fund, led a $35 million funding round for Dubai-based online car trader SellAnyCar.com last year.
That followed a series of landmark deals including Amazon’s acquisition of e-commerce platform Souq.com and the sale of ride-hailing app Careem to Uber Technologies Inc.
Alabbar is also chairman of Dubai’s biggest developer, Emaar Properties PJSC.
By Zainab Fattah
Noon.com’s launch in Saudi Arabia, where online sales are expected to reach $13.9 billion by 2021, has sparked a race for e-commerce dominance.