Living Social is acquiring Dubai-based group buying site GoNabit for an undisclosed sum, in a landmark deal that marks the first large-scale e-commerce acquisition in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
GoNabit, founded in February 2010, operates in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Lebanon, Jordan, and Kuwait, and became the first group buying site in the region to offer daily deals in Arabic. Living Social's acquisition of GoNabit marks its entry into the Middle East market as well as a new stage of international expansion, as LivingSocial has also moved to acquire Indonesia-based group buying site DealKeren and its parent company Ensogo, which operates in Thailand and the Philippines.
“We are excited to enter the dynamic Asian market, and our presence in the Middle East and the Netherlands further strengthens our strategic global efforts to bring LivingSocial values to members across the globe," commented Living Social CEO and founder Tim O'Shaughnessy.
LivingSocial's move to expand comes on the heels of rumors that rival group buying site Groupon is preparing to go public, potentially to the tune of a $30 billion I.P.O. While LivingSocial- operating in 12 countries and generating approximately $50 million in revenue per month- lags far behind Groupon with an April 2011 valuation of around $2.9 billion, the site has been deemed the fastest-growing group buying site in the world.
For GoNabit, the question remains as to whether the site will be as competitive locally after the sale. With fierce rivals Cobone expanding swiftly, and other group buying sites cropping up daily throughout the region, it remains to be seen whether GoNabit can continue to leverage its local brand to stay competitive.
Yet GoNabit co-founder Sohrab Jahanbani assures that business wil proceed as usual. “Our acquisition by LivingSocial has really strengthened our ability and resolve to continue being the best group-buying website in the region. Both Dan Stuart and I will remain in our respective roles for the foreseeable future and all GoNabit staff have been retained."
Regardless of what the future holds, the deal will set a bar for exits in the e-commerce space in the region. As Dan Stuart, CEO and Co-founder of GoNabit.com remarked, “GoNabit’s acquisition by LivingSocial is a milestone in the development of e-commerce in the Middle East. E-commerce is in its infancy in this region and the entry of prominent global player LivingSocial signals the next phase of the industry’s development here."
Watch Wamda's interview with GoNabit co-founder Sohrab Jahanbani to learn how the first Arabnet conference catalyzed GoNabit's start and how the GoNabit team launched the first e-commerce survey in the MENA region in collaboration with YouGovSiraj.