U.A.E. Tech Startup IMENA Seeking $100 Million in Stake Sale

United Arab Emirates-based Internet business iMENA Holdings will raise $100 million through a stake sale in May and plans to sell shares to the public in 2017, according to founder and managing director Khaldoon Tabaza.

The company, whose classified ad websites have been used to sell a $1.9 million camel in Saudi Arabia and personal effects of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, is raising funds for expansion in North Africa, Tabaza said from Dubai. The fundraising involves the sale of a “significant minority stake” in iMENA to international investors, he said.

IMENA, whose early investors include Abu Dhabi government controlled telecom operator Etisalat, is among companies seeking to benefit from the high penetration of smartphones and Internet usage in the Middle East. Dubai-based online retailer Souq.com is seeking $300 million in a fundraising that would value the company at more than $1 billion, people with knowledge of the matter said earlier this month.

“Once we break even in 2017 we’ll look at the next stage of development, which is most likely an initial public offering,” Tabaza said. “In our first fundraising round we focused on investors in the Middle East, this latest round will be primarily from international investors.”

IMENA operates online marketplaces, classified, taxi booking and restaurant reservations businesses including SellAnyCar.com and opensouq.com. In February 2012, an OpenSooq user in Libya named Ahmad Alwarfaly, offered Qaddafi’s ring and the shirt he was wearing before he was killed for $2 million, Tabaza said.

Smartphone penetration in the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia is 74 percent, the highest in the world. The Middle East’s online commerce market will be worth $15 billion this year, with about 10 percent of transactions on mobile devices, according to a PayPal Inc. report. IMENA operates in more than 10 countries including the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.

IMENA is considering listing on stock markets including London or Hong Kong, and may also have a secondary listing on an exchange in the Middle East, Tabaza said.

Tabaza previously founded Riyada Ventures, a Jordan-based venture capital firm in 2005, which was sold to Abraaj Group in 2009. He established iMENA in 2013.

The company will put about two-thirds of the $100 million it is raising into developing new businesses including more classified ad websites, as well as health care and education marketplaces, Tabaza said.

“We will be looking at both expanding organically by developing new businesses internally, and through acquiring other existing online businesses in the Middle East,” he said.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.