Abu Dhabi companies e& and ADQ acquire majority stake in Starzplay Arabia

E-Vision, entertainment arm of e&, and the Abu Dhabi holding company will buy 57% stake in the video streaming service

Starzplay Arabia has close to 2 million subscribers across 19 countries. Photo: Starzplay
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E-Vision, the UAE’s biggest telecoms operator e&’s entertainment arm, and Abu Dhabi holding company ADQ, have signed a deal to acquire a majority stake in video streaming service Starzplay Arabia.

The e&-led consortium will acquire a 57 per cent stake in the Middle East and North Africa's fastest-growing video streaming service on a “post-money valuation of $420 million”, e&, formerly known as Etisalat, said in a statement on Thursday.

Other shareholders of Starzplay Arabia include Starz, SEQ Investors and E-Vision. Starz and its parent company Lionsgate will maintain commercial agreements for content licensing to the venture, the statement said.

The acquisition, which is subject to regulatory approvals, will strengthen e&’s service offering by helping it to tap into direct-to-consumer streaming services across the Mena region, Khalifa Al Shamsi, chief executive of e& life, and chairman of E-Vision, said.

“This acquisition is a major milestone for E-Vision and will be a catalyst for the newly formed e& life consumer digital vertical in e&,” he said.

The move comes a day after e& made an offer to increase its stake in Saudi telecoms company Etihad Etisalat, better known as Mobily, to 50 per cent, from 28 per cent currently.

Founded in 1976, e& is the UAE’s oldest telecoms company with operations in countries across the Middle East, Asia and Africa, and more than 156 million customers.

Starzplay Arabia has close to 2 million subscribers across 19 countries, offering E-Vision an opportunity to further strengthen its lead in content aggregation. The platform’s annual revenue grew 40 per cent in 2021, and it expects “another strong year” in 2022 as it seeks to add new sports events to its platform, it chief executive and co-founder Maaz Sheikh, told The National last month.

With this investment, Starzplay Arabia can leverage media content delivered by both E-Vision and ADQ portfolio companies, further optimising its content acquisition spending, the statement said.

The investment in Starzplay Arabia provides ADQ access to a major subscription video on demand and OTT [over-the-top] service providers in the region, Jaap Kalkman, group chief investment officer at ADQ, said.

Collaborating with Starzplay Arabia will allow e& to customise the content options for its customers and the 5G’s fast download speeds will allow viewers to have immersive experiences using virtual reality and augmented reality, Mr Al Shamsi said.

“The investment by E-Vision and ADQ will enable us to grow further by focusing on original content production and advanced customer personalisation,” Mr Sheikh said.

E& is also exploring the development of 6G, the next generation mobile network that will allow for much faster and more sophisticated technology use.

Updated: March 17, 2022, 2:52 PM