September 27, 2017 / 9:53 AM / 24 days ago

Mideast fund attracts Dubai billionaire Alabbar as investor

DUBAI, Sept 27 (Reuters) - A venture capital firm focused on tech startups in the Middle East has signed up Dubai billionaire Mohamed Alabbar as an anchor investor in a new fund that aims to raise $250 million, the company said on Wednesday.

Alabbar, who is chairman of Emaar Properties, took a significant stake this year in the firm, Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP). The size of the investments was not disclosed.

MEVP said the new fund would invest in early and growth-stage technology companies in the Middle East, North Africa (MENA) and Turkey.

“If you look at this region, it is completely underserved. Startups in this part of the world are hungry for equity, hungry for capital,” said MEVP Chief Executive Walid Hanna.

Venture capital investment in MENA was less than 0.03 percent of gross domestic product in 2016, compared with 0.2 percent in India and 0.4 percent in the United States, the company said in its release, citing research reports.

Alabbar has been expanding into e-commerce through his various businesses such as Emaar Malls, which bought a 51 percent stake in fashion website Namshi from Global Fashion Group (GFG), a Rocket Internet startup.

He is also close to launching Noon, an e-commerce venture backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund (PIF).

Alabbar declined to comment on the launch date on Wednesday. Thomson Reuters publication Zawya reported that Noon is expected to go live next week.

In a sign of growing interest in technology firms in the region, Amazon.com bought Middle Eastern online retailer Souq.com in a deal described by Goldman Sachs as the biggest technology M&A deal in the Arab world.

MEVP is one of the largest venture capital firms in the region, with $120 million in assets, $100 million in co-investments and stakes in more than 40 companies in MENA and Turkey. (Reporting by Saeed Azhar; editing by David Clarke)

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