On 10th April 2023, Emirates Telecommunications Group Company (Etisalat by e&), one of the largest mobile network operators (market cap of ca. $54 billion), agreed to acquire a majority stake in Dubai-based, Careem’s Super App business.
Tech – Careem: Careem is building ‘the everything app’ for the greater Middle East, making it easier than ever to move around, order food and groceries, manage payments, and more. Since 2012, Careem has partnered with over 2.5 million drivers, and served over 50 million customers. Careem operates in over 70 cities across 10 countries in MENA and Asia.
Non-Tech – Etisalat by e&: Emirates Telecommunications Group Company PJSC, (rebranded as Etisalat by e&) is an Emirati-based multinational telecommunications services provider offering innovative solutions and services to over 150 million subscribers in 16 countries across the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Etisalat specializes in fixed-line services, voice communication, wireless communication, and data communication services. The company generates a majority of its revenue through mobile communications and fibre optic phone lines.
On 10th April 2023, e& entered into a definitive agreement to acquire a 50.3% stake in Careem super app business for $400m.
The underlying shareholder value creation for e& comes in the form of the strategic partnership it has agreed with Careem (see the section below).
Like most other techquisition deals, the market reacted favourably to the investment announcement given the positive outlook associated with the strategic potential of the investment and how it fits with e&’s consumer digital offerings.
Following the announcement, e&’s share price increased by approximately 3% from April 10 to April 18 – versus an increase of 1.5% in the FTSE ADX General Index – implying a net addition of ca. $855 million, which represents over 2x e&’s investment in Careem, signalling from the market that the techquisition has already paid for itself.
Founded in 2012, Careem is building “the everything app,” offering ride-hailing services, food and grocery delivery, a digital wallet, a suite of fintech services, and additional third-party services such as home cleaning, car rental, laundry, and more.
By allowing users to place an order through their app for a multitude of services, Careem is leveraging the convenience and ease of mobile technology to a simple and accessible one-stop-shop marketplace.
Careem’s ride-hailing services offer a variety of ride-hailing options, including CareemCar, CareemAuto, CareemBike, and CareemLux creating 2.5m+ drivers.
Careem has also partnered with several restaurants and supermarkets to offer grocery and food delivery services enabling users to explore a wide range of culinary options and place orders for delivery right to their doorstep.
In addition, Careem offers pay merchant solutions, enabling businesses to accept digital payments from customers using the Careem Pay wallet. The solution can be integrated into the merchants’ existing systems and offers customers a convenient and secure payment method within the Careem app.
With the new investment from e&, Careem plans to accelerate the realisation of its ambitious vision to create the first “everything app” serving customers across the Middle East.
This will include expanding its core food, grocery, and fintech services and the Careem Plus subscription programme across the region while adding even more partner services to the app.
While e& owns a majority stake in the Careem Super App, Uber will retain 100% ownership of the Careem ride-hailing business which it acquired in 2020 and will be a significant shareholder of the Careem Super App business.
“We are excited to bring e& into the family. Their passion for uplifting the region and the synergies across their portfolio are extremely valuable. With two strong partners in e& and Uber, I have no doubt that we will build the preeminent technology platform of the region.”
Mudassir Sheikha, CEO and Co-founder of Careem
The partnership aims to bring significant synergies with e& and Careem anticipates benefiting from e&’s large customer base and extensive experience scaling complex tech-enabled businesses across a largely shared geographic footprint.
The partnership with Careem will help e& achieve its strategic ambition of scaling up consumer digital offerings and accelerating its transformation to a global technology and investments group.
Source: e& Capital Markets Day 2023
As part of its 2030 vision, e& aims to utilize technology, analytics, and innovation to foster ideas and deliver sustainable and amazing experiences and services to its customers.
One of the four strategic pillars of its 2030 strategy is to digitalise and transform operations by improving productivity, customer experience, and efficiency. It is also focused on bringing new opportunities to the ecosystem, where it could leverage data and capabilities.
Source: e& Capital Markets Day 2023
As part of its transformation towards a new identity to position itself as a global technology and investment group e& has made significant investments, organic as well as inorganic, to achieve its 2030 strategic objectives.
In November 2022, e& introduced "GoWell," a consumer-focused platform centred around providing reward-based incentives to maintain a healthy lifestyle, promoting overall well-being in the community.
In October 2022, e& along with ADQ completed the acquisition of 57% of Starzplay Arabia, the leading video streaming service in the MENA region. The acquisition was a strategic move to strengthen the entertainment division of e& life, the group's digital vertical, and further expand its presence in the rapidly growing digital entertainment sector.
In October 2022, e&, through its $250 million VC fund made investments in VUZ, a leading immersive social media app.
In July 2022, the fintech arm of e& life, previously known as "eWallet," has undergone a rebranding and is now called e& money. With a strong focus on consumers, e& money aims to position itself as the leading financial "super app" in the MENA and Asia region.
In June 2022, the company entered a 3-year partnership with US-based DataRobot, an AI platform provider, to launch an Enterprise AI as a Service (AlaaS) offering to support government and private companies in their digital transformation.
In February 2022, e& joined forces with ADQ, Alpha Dhabi Holding, and First Abu Dhabi Bank to introduce "Wio," a digital bank that offers innovative financial services.
In January 2022, Etisalat by e& completed an acquisition of elGrocer, an online marketplace for groceries with 500+ registered outlets operating across UAE.
Source: Source: e& Capital Markets Day 2023
The investment in Careem’s Super App business provides e& with access to multiple digital verticals, new innovative digital services, strong talent, and new geographies.
The deal rationale revolves around e&’s plan to leverage Careem’s strong technological capabilities to boost the growth of its consumer digital services, including the expansion of e& life’s fintech vertical, e& money, which will play an important role in the super app vision by providing e& money’s powerful financial service offering
“The Careem Super App is a digital native that has built a rapidly growing payments, food and grocery delivery network, and a platform for other digital businesses to scale from. The shared vision between e& and Careem is exciting, we believe that together we’ll be able to enhance our impact across different markets in the region while pushing the boundaries of customer experience.”
Hatem Dowidar, Group CEO of e&
One of the reasons e&, and many of its peers, are so interested in the super app market is the growth expected – the super app market is estimated to grow from ca. $77 billion in 2022 to $426 billion by 2030 (CAGR of 27.8%).
A super app is a single application that provides multiple functionalities such as digital payments, social media, and booking cabs & movie tickets.
Super apps have gained significant popularity by offering a wide range of services within a single platform. This consolidated approach eliminates the need for users to switch between multiple apps for various purposes, providing enhanced convenience, frequent usage, and increased user engagement.
The increasing demand for super apps is driven by the rapid growth of connectivity, particularly in emerging markets and developing countries. Telecom corporations and mobile network providers have established extensive networks, offering widespread mobile connectivity and subscriptions.
This infrastructure has fuelled the adoption of smartphones, with over 8.2 billion global smartphone users, growing at an annual rate of 10%. The rise in smartphone adoption has subsequently led to a surge in mobile applications (apps) and created a strong demand for super apps.
Super apps rely on a diverse range of technologies to offer users a wide array of functionalities and services. Key technologies commonly employed include cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and mobile application frameworks. These technologies form the foundation of super apps, enabling seamless user experiences and efficient service delivery.
In addition, super apps are increasingly leveraging geolocation and mapping technologies such as Global Positioning System (GPS), Google Maps, and OpenStreetMap. These technologies play a vital role in providing location-based services like ride-hailing, food delivery, and navigation. By incorporating geolocation and mapping capabilities, super apps empower users to access location-specific services and navigate their surroundings with ease.
Their comprehensive suite of services caters to the diverse needs and preferences of users, driving their widespread adoption. With the continuous expansion of the global smartphone user base, the demand for super apps is poised to grow further, presenting significant opportunities in the mobile application market.
As digitization intensifies and customer demands escalate, individuals increasingly seek streamlined and efficient online experiences. Super apps have successfully tapped into this need by offering users the convenience of performing routine tasks quickly, seamlessly, and all in one app.
Super apps provide a powerful tool to meet these expectations, enabling businesses to consolidate their services into a single platform that caters to a diverse range of customer needs.
Businesses that embrace super apps are likely to gain a competitive advantage by capitalizing on the immense potential for cross-selling and upselling. With a comprehensive understanding of customer preferences and behaviour within the app ecosystem, companies can tailor personalized recommendations and targeted marketing campaigns, maximizing revenue opportunities.
As the world becomes increasingly interconnected and digitally driven, investing in super apps represents a strategic move that could strengthen an incumbent’s competitive position.
Careem’s Super App business offers a compelling proposition to become a one-stop-shop digital marketplace serving MENA and Asia. The integration of various services within the Careem Super App business enhances customer convenience and transforms the way goods and services are delivered.
The Careem techquisition completely aligns with e&’s strategy of scaling up consumer digital offerings and transforming into a global technology and investments group. The deal provides e& with access to multiple digital verticals, new innovative digital services, strong talent, and new geographies.
e& plans to leverage the Careem Super App business to boost the growth of its consumer digital services, including the expansion of e& life’s fintech vertical, e& money, which will play an important role in the super app vision by providing e& money’s powerful financial service offerings
“Super Apps have catalysed the economic, social and cultural growth of emerging markets today. The popularity of super apps has come from the need to provide a unique and seamless customer experience. The mobile first population have given rise to an ecosystem that has encouraged the use and also expanded the scope for super apps with user expectations turned towards performing their daily activities on digital platforms.”
- Hatem Dowidar, Group CEO of e&
e&’s techquisition is a great example of how a traditional business, in this case belonging to the telecoms industry, is actively engaged in the journey of transforming itself to deliver greater value to its stakeholders – particularly its shareholders and customers – by properly positioning itself for the future, ready to tackle disruption.
The essence of such a transformation unfolding is embedded in a strategy execution approach my firm, Aquaa Partners, has designed and trademarked, called Techquisition™ and which we deliver to our clients every day as their experienced and trusted expert partner.