UAE-based streaming service StarzPlay Arabia is considering an initial public offering (IPO) the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) in 2-3 years, co-founder and CEO Maaz Sheikh tells Frankly’s YouTube show Behind Closed Doors.
Last year, E-Vision, a subsidiary of telecoms giant e& (formerly Etisalat Group), and Abu Dhabi-based investment company ADQ, acquired 57% of StarzPlay Arabia. 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 says.
He adds, “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.”
Sheikh says the timing of E-Vision and ADQ’s acquisition of StarzPlay Arabia came at a time when the streaming service needed a strategic partner and investor to take the company to the next level.
“It’s not just about capital, it’s also about bringing resources that money can’t buy… the e& group is the world’s 7th largest telecom group… so with that comes their ability to use their brand and their resources to do more strategic content deals and more distribution across all their operating companies across different parts of MENA.
“So right now, we’re going through that sort of phase where we’re finding those economies of scale; that multiplier effect working together with them,” he says.
Sheikh told The National newspaper last year that StarzPlay Arabia is aiming to become profitable by 2024, while the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX), Hisham Khalif Malak, told Reuters in January that 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.
Watch the full episode with StarzPlay Arabia’s co-founder and CEO Maaz Sheikh on Behind Closed Doors below.