Amazon's Bid for Souq.com Challenged by Emaar Malls

Emaar Malls PJSC's bid for Dubai-based Souq.com was made public today, in a filing on the Dubai Financial Market.

Emaar Malls PJSC, the operator of the world's biggest shopping center, bid $800 million for online retailer Souq.com, challenging an offer made by Amazon.com Inc.

Buying Souq.com would be "complementary" for Emaar Malls, Sanyalak Manibhandu, the head of research at brokerage NBAD Securities LLC, said by e-mail on Monday.

Leading up to the announcement of plans for Noon, Alabbar and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos met in Dubai, leading to speculation of some sort of partnership between the two.

Last week Amazon agreed to buy the online retailer Souq.com, but has not commented since the rumor surfaced that Emaar Malls had offered more.

The site was slated to launch in January in the UAE with 20 million products. Dubai residents still pack themselves into local shopping malls, much like Americans did during the late 1990s, suggesting that e-commerce disruption is right around the corner.

Amazon has an exclusivity clause in its buyout talks for the online retailer, the person said.

Souq.com has reported more than 1.5 million sales to customers in the Middle East and North Africa, particularly the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Emaar chairman Alabbar is increasingly focusing on technology investments.

Founded in 2005, the e-commerce site emerged as the highest-valued internet company in the region previous year after a funding round raised more than $275 million (250 million euros).

Alabbar has said he plans to use Aramex and Kuwait Food Co (Americana), another company he bought into previous year, to deliver Noon products.

Investors who participated in the round included Tiger Global Management, Naspers, Standard Chartered Private Equity, International Finance Corporation and Baillie Gifford.

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