Anghami denies plans to delist from Nasdaq in favour of ADX 

ADX chairman Hisham Khalid Malak had predicted an upsurge in listings on the Abu Dhabi stock exchange this year

Lubna Hamdan 3 Min Read

Abu Dhabi-based music streaming company Anghami has denied plans to delist from New York’s Nasdaq in favour of listing on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX), co-founder Elie Habib told Frankly.

Sources close to the matter had told Frankly the Abu Dhabi-based company was considering moving its listing to the capital’s exchange. But Anghami co-founder Elie Habib said there are no such plans.

“No such discussion is happening… Am not discussing anything with ADX,” he told Frankly.

Anghami had moved its headquarters from Beirut to Abu Dhabi in 2021 as part of its partnership with Abu Dhabi Investment Office’s $545 million (AED2 billion) Innovation Programme. 

It became the first Arab tech company to list on Nasdaq in February 2021 in a $220 million valuation through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), which is a blank-cheque company formed to raised money through an IPO, with the purpose of buying an existing company to take it public. 

Last year, Frankly reported music streaming platform Spotify was mulling a potential take-over of its Middle East rival. A Spotify spokeswoman said by email at the time, “We have no news to report regarding a potential acquisition between Spotify and Anghami,” while Anghami declined to comment.

Founded in 2012 by Elie Habib and Eddy Maroun, Anghami is believed to have just under 60% of the Middle East’s market share, with 1.28 million paying subscribers and 19.5 million active users as of August last year, according to the company’s website.

Its strength lies in its massive library of Arabia music, having signed a deal with Egyptian star Amr Diab earlier last year to exclusively stream his music. Its strategic partnerships also include a deal with Saudi Arabia’s Rotana, the Middle East’s largest record label, which allows it access to the label’s music. 

Sources told Frankly Anghami opted for SPAC “hoping for the best”.

“Normally companies will go for SPAC hoping for an acquisition, otherwise they will go for an IPO [initial public offering]… Market conditions are wrong [and] not in their [Anghami’s] favour; investment appetite is down…” sources added.

“The idea was that Anghami would go public if Spotify showed interest in an acquisition, so a SPAC was proposed to speed up the takeover,” sources said.

Spotify went public on the NYSE in 2018

Spotify, which was founded in 2006 by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon, claims to have over 456 million monthly active users, including 195 million paying subscribers, as of September last year, according to its website. 

It went public on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in 2018 at a nearly $30 billion valuation through a direct listing as opposed to an IPO, having listed its shares without underwriting from the banks. It claimed its strong liquidity didn’t require it to sell shares to raise capital.

In January, however, it joined a wave of layoffs in the tech world when it announced plans to cut jobs by around 6% across the company in a bid to lower costs. It followed a round of layoffs affecting 13% of global staff at Facebook’s parent company Meta last year in line with declining sales.

This time for Abu Dhabi 

Despite bad news from Spotify and Meta, in January, Maaz Sheikh, co-founder and CEO of UAE-based movie and TV show streaming service StarzPlay Arabia, said the company is considering listing on ADX in 2-3 years. 

StarzPlay Arabia co-founder and CEO Maaz Sheikh

Last year, 57% of the company was acquired by E-Vision, a subsidiary of telecoms giant e& (formerly Etisalat Group), and Abu Dhabi-based investment company ADQ. The Etisalat Group has been listed on ADX since 2002.

“It’s not my decision, to be quite honest, but given our shareholders, I would think that we would want to list on the Abu Dhabi [Securities] Exchange, but again, it’s not my decision and it matters so much more on how the market is doing, how we’re doing, and first of all, we have to be ready for it. So, it’s a complex one,” Sheikh told Frankly.

He added, “The goal is still to continue to grow the business for the next 2 to 3 years. We have some aggressive growth expectations and then we let them [shareholders] decide what’s right for us. Two to 3 years is the current plan.”

ADX chairman Hisham Khalid Malak told Reuters in January the stock exchange expects an upsurge in listings this year despite high inflation and rising interest rates.

StarzPlay Arabia controls about 20% market of the MENA region’s subscription-based streaming market, according to a May 2022 report by tech company Omdia, while Netflix and the MBC Group’s Shahid VIP hold about 22% of the market each.

Sheikh told The National newspaper last year that StarzPlay Arabia is aiming to become profitable by 2024.