Dubai social-networking platform to raise $139.5m through New York listing

Yalla Group will use proceeds to market its voice-based platform and invest in technology

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 21: A person walks in front of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in lower Manhattan on September 21, 2020 in New York City. As parts of Europe prepare for another lockdown due to a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, markets across the globe fell due to the economic uncertainty. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell over 900 points in morning trading.   Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP
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Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, praised the first listing of a UAE technology company on the New York Stock Exchange after Yalla Group announced the pricing range for its initial public offering.

Yalla Group, based in Dubai Internet City, is a voice-centric social networking and entertainment platform that is planning to raise $139.5 million through the listing of 18.6 million American Depository shares, at a price of $7.50 each.

"Yalla Group is the first unicorn UAE-based technology company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange," Sheikh Mohammed said on Twitter.

"Our digital economy is growing and will remain an integral part of our exports globally."

Yalla Group has a Cayman Islands holding company with operational bases in the UAE and China.

The company "functions as our primary business operation centre".

It houses sales, marketing and other operations, while product development and technology work is carried out in Hangzhou, and financial reporting and other functions take place in Shenzhen, the company said in its prospectus.

Yalla has 5.4 million paying customers and said revenue virtually doubled year-on-year in the first six months of 2020, when it made a net profit of $25.2m on revenue of $52.8m.

It is looking to tap into what it sees as a demand for social-networking and entertainment options in the region.

Its prospectus states there were 137 million active online social-network users in the region last year, who spend an average of 230 minutes on platforms each year, which is "substantially longer than many other countries and regions".

It said the current offering of Arabic online social-networking applications was limited.

The company said 12.5 million users visited its platforms each month during the second quarter of this year, and that active users of the Yalla social-networking site spent about 4.5 hours on it.

Yalla Group is looking to use the proceeds of its listing on marketing and developing its technology.

It is wants to create a market for its shares, "retain talented employees by providing them with equity incentives" and raise additional equity capital, it said.