DUBAI (Reuters) - Billionaire Dubai businessman Mohamed Alabbar led two investor groups that recently bought a combined 16.45 percent stake in Dubai-based courier Aramex ARMX.DU, a source familiar with the matter said.
The source said Alabbar was keen to harness Aramex’s footprint in logistics and transport to build an e-commerce platform across the Arab world within areas such as banking and retail.
Dubai-based news website Arabian Business -- known to have close ties to Alabbar -- on Sunday said reports suggested that Alabbar could be planning to build a sizable stake in Aramex, with a view to taking control. It did not say where the reports came from or cite any sources, however. The source refused to be drawn on Alabbar’s intentions for further buying of Aramex.
Nobody from Aramex was immediately available to comment.
Aramex said earlier on Sunday in a bourse filing that its founder Fadi Ghandour had sold his 9.9 percent stake held through Levant Logistics Holdings to Cayman Islands-registered Boson Ventures Corporation. The source said Alabbar was a lead investor in Boson.
The bourse filing did not give the value of the sale or elaborate further.
Alabbar was also a lead investor in Jaona Investment, which acquired a 6.55 percent stake in Aramex through a direct trade worth 437.6 million dirhams ($119 mln), according to a bourse statement on Thursday.
The other investors in Boson and Jaona were Gulf-based, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
The Arab world’s youthful population and improving Internet access -- the UAE and Saudi Arabia, for example, have smartphone penetration rates above 70 percent -- mean the region is well placed to capture the growing popularity of e-commerce.
Alabbar, chairman of Emaar Properties EMAR.DU, the Dubai government-linked builder of the world’s tallest building, in April took a 4 percent stake in online fashion retailer Yoox Net-A-Porter (YNAP).
The Middle East accounts for 5 percent of global sales of luxury goods and is seeing growing online sales due to increasing public investments in e-services and telecoms infrastructure, YNAP said at the time.
Alabbar is also chairman of Emaar Malls, the owner and operator of Dubai Mall, which accounts for 50 percent of the emirate’s luxury goods spending.
This is not Alabbar’s first big play for a listed company in recent months.
Adeptio, an investment group led by Alabbar, in June agreed a $2.4 billion deal to buy a majority stake in Kuwait Food Co (FOOD.KW) (Americana), which owns the Middle East franchises for fast food chains KFC and Pizza Hut and also produces branded consumer foods.
($1 = 3.6730 UAE dirham)
Editing by David French