RIYADH: Majid Al-Futtaim (MAF), an operator of malls, cinemas and leisure attractions across the Middle East, has re-enforced its commitment to Saudi Arabia by leading a $30 million fundraising to grow the online grocery delivery business of Wadi Group across the Kingdom.
Carrefour, the hypermarket business MAF owns in the region, will become a long-term strategic partner with Wadi in supplying food and groceries in Saudi Arabia, with plans to expand from its current business in three big cities.
The deal is MAF’s latest investment in Saudi Arabia, part of the $4 billion investment program that has seen it play a major role in the opening of cinemas in the Kingdom via its Vox chain and an ambitious program of mall building.
Alain Bejjani, chief executive of Dubai-based MAF, explained to Arab News the rationale for the deal on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative (FII)conference in Riyadh.
“Saudi Arabia is a very important market for us and for the online business in particular. Our approach is to be as prominent digitally as we are physically.
“Saudi Arabia is the heart of the Arab world, with a population of 30 million, and it is opening up at an incredible rate. The importance of Saudi Arabia has been well understood recently — everybody is talking about it.”
Asked if he thought regional companies might do more business with Saudi Arabia if Western firms reduce their presence, Bejjani said: “Competition is a good thing, but if they don’t want to compete, that’s good too.”
The new funds will help Wadi to expand outside its present sites in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam, and will accompany MAF’s expansion of the 18-strong Carrefour chain in the Kingdom.
Bejjani declined to say exactly how much of the $30 million fundraising it was directly investing, but added: “Our valuation is beyond valued because we bring with us the strength of the MAF and Carrefour brands and network.”
In a statement, MAF said: “This partnership will provide customers access to over 12,000 high-quality products at the same great-value prices found in Carrefour stores, delivered within a two-hour window on the platform, making the quick delivery of such a wide product offering the first of its kind in the Middle East.”