Alabbar-backed firm buys stake in online travel firm

Venture capital firm MEVP has invested in Wego in exchange for an undisclosed stake

A picture take on September 14, 2017 shows a FlyDubai Boing 737-800 landing at the tarmac at Dubai's International Airport.
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The Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP), a technology-focused venture capital firm which counts UAE-based billionaire Mohamed Alabbar as  a shareholder, has made an investment in the online travel marketplace Wego in exchange for an equity stake in the company.

The investment in Wego is part of the travel firm's latest round of equity raising alongside Middle East Broadcasting Centre (MBC) Group, which in July had announced an investment in the company, MEVP said in a statement on Sunday. The firm did not disclose the value of the investment or the size of stake it has acquired in Wego, which provides travel search websites and mobile apps for travellers in the Asia Pacific and Middle East regions.

MEVP joins existing Wego investors including Tiger Global Management, Crescent Point Group and Square Peg Capital. Dubai-based investment bank Arqaam Capital helped facilitate this transaction.

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"Online travel in Mena is a large vertical and continues to grow rapidly aided by a shift in consumer behaviour from offline to online. Wego is capitalising on such favourable market dynamics and is already a leading travel brand that is highly recognized by travellers in the region, especially Saudi Arabia," said Walid Hanna, MEVP founder and chief executive , adding that the Media major MBC's backing as a strategic partner for the company will help Wego strengthen its business further. "Wego has an exciting growth plan and with the support of MBC and MEVP, we believe it is well positioned to dominate the travel metasearch play in Mena."

Wego, which was founded in Singapore in 2005, is now headquartered in Dubai and  in the Asian country after it recorded rapid growth across the region. The firm has localised offerings for travel comparison services and works with over 700 local and global airlines, hotels and online travel agents, according to the statement.

MEVP, in which Mr Alabbar took a "large" stake for an undisclosed amount in May this year, is one of the largest venture capital firms in the broader Mena region. It currently manages four regional technology-focused venture capital funds with more than US$120 million in assets under management and $100m in co-investments, spread across 40 portfolio companies across Mena and Turkey.

Mr Alabbar also backs the e-commerce platform that is due to be launched this year, in a joint $1 billion investment with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, as he targets the region’s rapidly changing online retail landscape.