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Amazon Buys Mideast's Souq.com After $800M Counteroffer

Amazon purchased the Middle East’s biggest online retailer Souq.com on Tuesday for an undisclosed amount, a day after a state-backed firm disclosed an $800 million counteroffer.

A joint statement described the purchase as expanding Amazon’s influence into the Mideast as the chairman of the state-supported firm Emaar prepares to launch his own retail website in a country known more for its luxury malls than online shopping.

That could put Seattle-based Amazon in a head-to-head competition with a firm helmed by one of the sheikhdom’s favored business magnates.

“This is a milestone for the online shopping space in the region,” Souq.com co-founder and CEO Ronaldo Mouchawar said in a statement.

The announcement said the two companies expect the sale to close this year.

“Together, we’ll work hard to provide the best possible service for millions of customers in the Middle East,” Russ Grandinetti, a senior vice president at Amazon, said in a statement.

In buying Souq.com, Amazon will leapfrog into the crucial Mideast markets of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, where the Dubai-based retailer already has local operations.

As a private company, Souq.com hasn’t had to file public earning reports, though the website last year raised more than $275 million in a round of financing that the company said would help fuel its future growth.

Souq.com’s status as a free-zone firm also means Amazon will be able to run a 100-percent foreign-owned operation. Amazon’s entry into the UAE comes after Apple Inc. opened its first stores in the Arab world in Dubai and the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi in October 2015.

The website’s major investors have included Tiger Global Management LLC and South Africa-based Naspers Ltd.

Rumors about Amazon’s interest in Souq.com have circulated for months. In November, Emaar chairman Mohamed Alabbar reportedly met Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos at the state-backed firm’s cavernous Dubai Mall, home to…

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