Yahoo has signed an agreement to buy Maktoob.com, the leading online community in the Arab world with more than 16.5 million users.
Through the acquisition announced Tuesday, Yahoo will join its own services with Maktoob.com's local content, providing people with Arabic-specific information and Arabic versions of Yahoo Messenger and Yahoo Mail.
Popular in such countries as the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, Maktoob.com says it reaches one-third of those online in the Arab world.
And there is room to grow. Citing figures from the World Bank, Yahoo noted that more than 320 million people worldwide speak Arabic, but less than 1 percent of all online content is in Arabic.
"Access to information and communications tools can positively impact people's lives in many ways," Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz said in a statement, "and with the acquisition of Maktoob.com and our investment in the region, the Arab world will soon get a Yahoo experience in Arabic with relevant local language content, programming and services."
The two companies are also touting the purchase as an opportunity for advertisers to access a new market. Yahoo cited statistics from Madar Research, which predicts that spending on Internet advertising will rise by 35 to 40 percent in the Arab region this year.
"Internet users in the Arab world will have access to Yahoo's vast content portfolio, as well as world-class communications products, which will be available in Arabic for the first time," Ahmed Nassef, general manager of Maktoob.com, said in a statement. "In addition, advertisers will be able to leverage the vast reach of the newly combined audiences to effectively market to consumers across the region."
The acquisition is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter, after which Maktoob.com will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Yahoo. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
Maktoob Group, the parent company of Maktoob.com, was founded in 2000 and is based in Amman, Jordan. After the Maktoob.com acquisition is wrapped up, the remaining Maktoob Group companies--which include Souq.com, CashU.com, Araby.com, and Tahadi.com--will function under a newly created entity called the Jabbar Internet Group.