Abu Dhabi's e& enterprise, a subsidiary of technology and telecom company e&, has agreed to acquire a majority stake in Dubai-based peer-to-peer lending platform Beehive, which is focused on lending to small and medium businesses in the Mena region.
The company will acquire between 61 per cent and 69 per cent of Beehive at an enterprise value of $35 million.
This will be through a capital injection and the acquisition of existing shares, the unit of the company formerly known as the Etisalat Group said on Thursday in a regulatory filing to the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, where its shares are traded.
The financial impact will be immaterial to the e& group's consolidated results, it said. The transaction is not associated to related parties and will be paid in cash.
The deal will help to address the lending gap in the SME industry and open up a new stream of growth for e& enterprise, the company said.
It will also allow Beehive, which has arranged more than Dh1.5 billion ($408.4 million) worth of loans to SMEs, to scale up its business and expand its offerings.
“The acquisition of Beehive’s digital lending platform marks the second step in e& enterprise’s journey in the FinTech space, after the launch of UAE Trade Connect in 2021,” said Salvador Anglada, chief executive of e& enterprise.
“SMEs are important drivers of the economy and there is a need more than ever to support their unique financing needs. With Beehive, we have the right technological innovation to accelerate on our agenda in the UAE and beyond.”
SMEs and start-ups play a key role in a digital economy and the UAE government has set up several initiatives to support their growth.
They make up a significant portion of businesses in the UAE and are key to the Emirates' goal of becoming the top nation globally for entrepreneurship.
The latest government data shows SMEs represent more than 94 per cent of all companies operating in the country, with 73 per cent in the wholesale and retail sector.
However, SMEs are facing challenges when it comes to securing access to funding. In the GCC, there is an estimated credit gap of about $250 billion, according to global consultancy Deloitte.
The “strategic alignment” between e& enterprise and Beehive “presents a huge opportunity to increase and accelerate financing to SMEs across the region”, said Craig Moore, founder and chief executive of Beehive.
“The market leading brand, reach and vision of e& and e& enterprise allows Beehive to drive more innovation and collaboration into the market,” he said.
Beehive had previously signed an agreement with Emirates Development Bank to boost SME funding in priority sectors across the UAE through a Dh30 million funding facility from EDB.