After LinkDotNET $130 Million Buyout, OTVentures a New Arab Internet & Tech Giant is Born

19 Jul, 2010

After Yahoo acquired  Maktoob last year, many of Maktoob group companies were merged under one independent brand called Jabbar. Somehow similar precedence happened with Orascom Telecom’s LinkDotNet 150 million USD buyout to Mobinil, but at a larger scale.

Orascom Telecom which is one of the largest tech and telecom groups in the Arab world, has been facing legal disputes with France Telecom as the 2 are biggest shareholders of Egyptian Mobile operator Cairo-based Egyptian Co., which operates under the brand Mobinil.

So on July 3rd 2010 Mobinil agreed to pay 130 Million USD to  acquire the ISP unit of Orascom’s LINKDotNet SAE and Link Egypt SAE as part of an agreement that settled the legal dispute between Orascom and France Telecom SA.

However,  the non-ISP business unites were not part of the deal, so OTVENTURES was born as a new addition to the Orascom Telecom group.

The birth of OTVentures was announced on July 6th but overlooked by the mainsteam media, so here is quick profile of the new company which seems to be the largest indigenous Arab Internet play in terms of reach:

- OTVentures CEO is Hanan Abdel Meguid who is former CEO of Link Development.

- OTVentures says it hires 700 team members operating across over 17 countries.

The holding companies:

LinkOnlLine:

Founded  in 2002, now one of the largest, if not the largest Arab Internet company with the following Portals:

MSN Arabia:

MSN Arabia is the result of LinkOnLine partnership writhe Microsoft, MSN Arabia is available in English and Arabic. It covers Windows live services and the MSN Arabia Portal.

MSN arabia portal offers wide range of content such as: news, business and financial guides, technology, health, fitness and diet tips, entertainment games, and celebrity gossip games. The site is also integrated with other LinkOnLine products such as Otlob.

MSN Arabia uses MS bing as the default search engine after it abandoned LinkOnLine’s own search Engine Onkush. As a Portal MSN Arabia main competitor is Yahoo Maktoob and as Bing is available in Arabic, Google is the main search competitor. However Aljazeera and other news and vertical sites might also be considered as competitors.

Masraway:


One the most popular Arabic portal geared towards egyptians, Masrway offers a wide array of content and services:

News, Classified, Jokes, Video sharing, Games (single and Multi player ), SMS ( 1-Egyptian and Saudi user subscribe can get news at the of cost 4 EP per month, 2- online paid service to send SMS to other mobile phones), TV Guide, E-Gov Services (links to e-gov services) Jobs ( integrated with Linkonline careermdieast job portal), Women channel, Thanaweya Amma ( high school results), Anti Women Harassment ( good job ), Music, Travel, Food Delivery (via LinkOnLine’s otolb) Ketabat ( user generated Arabic content and news -citizen journalism), greeting cards, Hosting and Domains and webmail.

Yallakora:

In operations since 2002 providing Arabic English, news and content for football leagues in the Arab region especially in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Tunisia & Morocco and most of the European and other regional tournaments in the world. The site also offers an Arabic fantasy Football competition and iPhone app.

YallaKora key competitors are: kooora.com, Filgoal (from Sarmady a Vodafone company in Egypt), Goal.com and Yahoo Maktoob Sports. Yallakora English version still has Onkush as a default search engine, seems the developing team forgot to add bing instead.
MSN Maghreb:

MSN Maghreb is a French version of MSN Arabia targeting French speaking users in countries like Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria.

Mazika:

Arabic Music Portal offering legal Music Audio and Video streaming and Islamic Nasheed with the option to buy via “Credit Card”, the site also provides online Audio & Video streaming and celebrity news.

On the entertainment front Saramady Vodafone company has Filfan a portal with content related to Music and cinema.

On Mobile, Nokia X6 Comes with Music offers free Music download for one year.

Otlob:


An online food ordering site through which orders can be placed to many restaurants in Egypt, UAE, KSA and Bahrin. And otlobmall.com a mall shopping site.

Yallabina:

Entertainment and city guide for Cairo, covering major events, concerts, and cultural events.

CareerMideast:

Job recruitment site for the Arab world, according to the about page the site has 500,000 CVs which is 25% of Bayt’s claimed CVs  number. Careermideast currently offering free job posting for employers.

LinkonLine ID: is linkdotnet single login to all its sites.

El3ab:

Online bilingual gaming offering  flash based single player & multiplayer games. The site says they will add Game Reviews Channel for reviewing the newest games worldwide. And a Fan Shop, for buying different elements “which will enhance gaming experience on el3ab.” The site offers traditional Middle Eastern games such Tarneeb and chess.

Other regional players in the Arab Gaming include: Tahdi from Jabbar, Tarneeb.com, kammelna popular baloot game from Saudi based remal IT and Wizard productions ( merged with Go3Media, it has recently received funding from Ossama Fiyad former Data Chief Office Yahoo and Chairman of D1G and Oasis 500.) and Yallagamescafe.

Baraca Arabia:

News and content for FC Barcelona Arabic fans.

Shofha:

The first Arabic legal video service, or the HULU of the Arab world. Shofha is made possible with strategic partnership with Rotana the leading Arabic entertainment company. The site offers users to: buy: download and view for a life time, renting: download and view for 48 hours and online streaming. Payment is via credit card or Linkdotnet cards.

Shofha uses unforunityly Microsoft’s Silverlight platform instead of HTML 5.

Yahoo Maktoob on the other hand has formed recently a partnership with Rotana to use and stream Rotana’s wide range of multimedia content, including music, videos, movies, concerts, TV channels and radio, through its upcoming Video Network channel for the Arabic speaking world.

Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Tala who owns Rotana is planning to launch a new Arabic television news channel in partnership with the Fox network. The Prince  is also an investor in Rubert Murdoch’s News Corp who in his part made recently a $70m investment for 9.1% of Rotana.

Arab Finance:

Arab Finance Provides online trading for the Egyptian stock market, financial news, tools and analysis. It also has “Isharet el Borsa” desktop app offering real time stock quotes info, charts and other technical info.

Arab Finance also has free iPhone application for the Egyptian Stock market, providing real-time access to the Egyptian Stock Market.

Other indepandant players in the Stock segment include the following:
-Awarmer: from Suadi based Remal IT offers online trading for the Saudi Stock Market.

-Argaam: UAE based Gulf-focused financial news portal.

-Saudi Based N2V’s Mubasher.info offers comprehensive financial news and analysis tools for Saudi Stock Exchange, Dubai Financial Market, Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, Egyptian Stock Exchange, Amman Stock Exchange, Kuwait Stock Exchange, Muscat Securities Market, Doha Securities Market, Bahrain Stock Exchange, and Palestine Securities Exchange

-From National Technology Group the mother company of N2V, Mubasher Trade offers trading for Egyptian stock market and UAE stocks. And Mubasher NET for retail investors, offering market data desktop app.

-From Jordan Tickerchart: Stock analysis software for Arab  stock exchanges.

Link Data Center:

Offers a range of hosting solutions for enterprise and small and mid size business, notably: Managed Dedicated Hosting ,which offers firewalls and load-balancing devices. However we do not know which environment is supported, like the different Linux distributions, as all Otvenutres is based on Microsoft .NET technologies.

The other regional Data center we know of in the region is Bahrain based Kulacom data center in Jordan

Link Development

Is one of the largest  regional ISV, software developer and out-sourcing companies in the region. Link Development is a key regional partner to Microsoft and its products such as MS Dynamics. Link Development most notable in-house developed product is: Tempo, an Enterprise 2.0 product which is based on Microsoft Sharepoint, offering corporate blogging, employees profile, document sharing, forums, HR forums and so on.

Link Development competitors are widespread from other Microsoft ISVs to small website development companies to Oracle and its partners to open source software that offer free alternative to MS products such as Sharepoint and Dynamics.

ARPU +:

Launched in October 2003, specialized in providing Value Added Services (VAS) and platform solution in the Mobile in the telecom field. Competitors are  in many of the verticals  the company operates in. This include: Eskandenia and Globitel from Jordan and info2cell.


ConnectAds:

Is the online adverting arm of O2Ventures, it represents many sites of o2ventures and is the official representative of Facebook in the Arab world.

Other advertising networks in the Arab world include: Sarmady, iKoo which resulted from Jabbar buying e-marketing MENA and N2V’s Net Advantage . More regional online advertising companies can be found here.

If we missed anything please let us know.

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  1. aqarmap.com  |  July 19th, 2010 at 7:36 PM #

    Good job Gaith, very good analysis, and yes, no body talked about LinkDotNet before although they are a major player in the MENA eCommerce market.

    Thanks !

  2. Gaith  |  July 19th, 2010 at 7:47 PM #

    Thanks Imad :)

  3. Fatin  |  July 19th, 2010 at 11:43 PM #

    First welcome back to your readers after being sick for a while :)
    As Imad said , very good analysis , i liked the way you posed & introduced the sites !
    thanks Gaith

  4. Khalid  |  July 20th, 2010 at 8:04 AM #

    Bayt.com’s CV number is 4.5Million. 500,000 CVs is just 11% of Bayt.com’s CVs and not 25%.

  5. Bashar Al-Abdulhadi  |  July 22nd, 2010 at 12:27 AM #

    Well done Gaith

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