Daily deal website Cobone has new owner

Cobone, founded four years ago by Paul Kenny, has grown to become one of the best known coupon websites in the region, serving the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The Dubai-based daily deal website Cobone.com has changed hands again, a year after being acquired by Tiger Global Management.

The new owner, Middle East Digital Group which has ExpatWoman.com in its portfolio, acquired Cobone yesterday for an undisclosed sum.

Cobone, founded four years ago by Irish entrepreneur Paul Kenny, has grown to become one of the best known coupon websites in the region, serving the UAE and Saudi Arabia and outliving other such websites including LivingSocial, which pulled out of the region in 2011.

“I had been looking to develop e-commerce for ExpatWoman,” said Jane Drury, the chief executive of ME Digital Group. “We haven’t had any e-commerce on the site at all and I was looking at ways to introduce that, and then Cobone came on the market quietly this year and it was a case of being in the right place at the right time.”

Cobone’s e-commerce platform is complementary to the aims of ExpatWoman said Ms Drury, who will now look at ways to incorporate shopping and purchasing on to ExpatWoman while developing digital advertising for Cobone.

“They [Cobone] will continue to be experts in e-commerce and we will continue with editorial and connectivity with ExpatWoman and put the two together,” said Ms Drury.

The two websites will be run as separate businesses with a joint management team.

To date, Cobone has sold 2.6 million coupons, saving its 500,000 unique users more than $172 million.

In December last year, Cobone was acquired by the New York investment firm Tiger Global Management, in a deal that was reported to have been worth between $20m and $40m for the original backer, Jabbar Internet Group.

Mr Kenny will now focus on Cobone’s sister website, the travel deal site Safarna, which remains part of Tiger’s portfolio. The remainder of Cobone’s core management team will move to ME Digital Group.

“We started the process [to sell] end of the second quarter. We wanted to focus on the travel industry and with that I don’t think anyone can do two things at once very well,” said Mr Kenny. “We had to make that decision and we made it.”

Cobone expanded rapidly across the region before scaling back to focus on profitability in the UAE and Saudi Arabia a couple of years ago.

There will be no job losses with the acquisitions, as both companies continue to hire.

ExpatWoman plans to continue its global expansion with the help of ME Digital Group. After acquiring ExpatWoman.com, the company expanded its reach to 240 countries, generating more than 14,000 pages of content including country guides and information on life abroad.

“ExpatWoman.com started off in Dubai,” said Ms Drury. “We now have seven sites in the Middle East, and from there we launched in Singapore, Hong Kong and Azerbaijan. We acquired expatwomen.com, which made us global and we will be looking to build on that global reach.”

Last year ExpatWoman.com attracted 3.4 million unique visitors with 37 million page views.

The UAE’s e-commerce sector grew by 20 per cent last year to Dh2 billion, helped by growing internet penetration and rising consumer trust in online purchasing, according to Euromonitor International.

thamid@thenational.ae

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Published: December 7, 2014 04:00 AM

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