Dubai-based Emerging Markets Property Group (EMPG) and OLX Group, owners of homegrown technology firms Bayut and dubizzle, have announced the merger of their MENA and South Asia operations to form an AED 3.6 billion (US$1 billion) Dubai-based unicorn company. The merger is the latest in a series of entrepreneurial successes that reinforce Dubai’s reputation as a global hub for talent, enterprise, investment and innovation.
The accomplishments of Bayut and dubizzle, which began their ventures out of Dubai Internet City, the region’s largest technology hub, point to the emirate’s dynamic startup ecosystem and the environment it provides innovators to present and execute their ideas. Coming less than a year and a half after Uber’s $3.1 billion acquisition of local ride-hailing company Careem, the latest Dubai startup success story also showcases the vast growth prospects and supportive environment the city offers entrepreneurial ventures.
Other such successes scripted in the last few years by Souq.com, the first unicorn company in the Middle East, acquired by Amazon; Media.Net, one of the world’s largest ad tech companies; Anghami, an Arabic music streaming platform; and Wrappup, the developer of an AI-based productivity app, which was acquired by US tech firm Voicera, have shown the world how Dubai enables startups to dream big and achieve even bigger.
From world-class infrastructure to easy business setup, access to incubators and availability of smart funding, the emirate provides all the elements needed for new ventures to launch themselves on a strong footing. Furthermore, the city is at the crossroads of the economies of the east and west and offers a gateway to the world’s fastest growing markets, ensuring a plethora of business opportunities.
Ammar Al Malik, Managing Director of Dubai Internet City, where Bayut and dubizzle started, said: “Even in these exceptional times, Dubai has demonstrated its attractiveness as an international investment destination. Our infrastructure and business-friendly environment have created an enabling ecosystem for entrepreneurs to scale up their ventures in a community that is home to everyone from startups to Fortune 500 companies. The success of dubizzle and Bayut shows once again that the UAE’s technology sector is growing thanks to the vision of our leaders to create a knowledge-based, innovation-driven economy.”
Technology has been a special focus for Dubai’s entrepreneurial drive over the last two decades. Dubai Internet City, part of the TECOM Group, which recently completed two decades since its establishment as a dedicated technology community embodying the vision of Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, provides extraordinary competitive advantages for technology companies. These include world-class infrastructure, an ideal environment for business success, a culture that embraces rapid growth and innovation, and unrivaled simplicity of doing business.
The success of Dubai Internet City was the first in a series of accomplishments that translated the leadership’s vision into reality, setting the foundation for the TECOM Group. Fast forward 20 years, the Group has ten thriving sector-focused business communities in Dubai including Dubai Media City, Dubai Knowledge Park, Dubai Studio City, Dubai Outsource City, Dubai Production City, Dubai International Academic City, Dubai Science Park, Dubai Industrial City and Dubai Design District (d3). All of them have spawned large communities of entrepreneurs.
Dubai was recently ranked among the world’s best cities for entrepreneurs moving abroad to start a business, according to a study conducted by Movinga. Dubai has also been consistently ranked the most innovative city in the region and the highest-ranked city for deployment of smart city apps. The 2019 Smart City Index (SCI) of the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) ranked the city higher than major global metropolises like Paris, Chicago and Brussels and number one in the region.
The Head of EMPG – MENA, Haider Ali Khan said: “This deal would not have been possible without the supportive business environment created in Dubai which has paved the way for companies such as ours to grow and expand both locally and in the region,”
He is excited about the post-merger growth prospects of the unified company out of Dubai. “This merger of EMPG and OLX will allow us to better serve our customers, given that both operate brands with a strong following and will allow us to leverage existing tech and data to paint a more accurate picture of the state of affairs in the real estate industry across the region. At the same time, we will be making significant technology investments to provide more value to all users of property, automotive and other segments of the dubizzle and OLX platforms. I look forward to a bright and prosperous future for the group,” he added.
The agreement includes an AED 550 million (US$150 million) investment round, led by existing EMPG shareholders and OLX group. With this merger OLX has become EMPG’s largest single shareholder with 39% of shares.
In the UAE, both dubizzle and Bayut will be operated by EMPG. Global presence for EMPG other than the UAE includes Pakistan with Zameen, Bangladesh with Bproperty, Morocco and Tunisia with Mubawab, and Thailand with Kaidee, with all assets under EMPG ownership. In addition to dubizzle, the merger brings OLX entities in Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan and several GCC countries into EMPG’s fold as well.
The aggregated value of properties sold in the UAE, Egypt, Lebanon and Pakistan is estimated at AED 330 billion, providing a commission pool for real estate agencies of over AED 7 billion per annum. This presents a great opportunity for EMPG – the latest unicorn company in Dubai – to enhance its real estate services.