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5 Arab investments into social media giants

Social networking platforms have received global attention from investors pledging millions to secure shares of this irresistible monetization opportunity

Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala invested $75 million in the cloud-based messaging platform Telegram Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal invested $250 mn in exchange for 2.3% of Snapchat’s shares Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Mansour invested in Facebook before the social network’s IPO in 2012

Social networking platforms have received global attention from investors pledging millions to secure shares of this irresistible monetization opportunity.  

More than half of the world’s population (53.6%) use social media platforms, according to a report by We Are Social. In the UAE alone, 99% of the population use Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat among others. 

Here’s a look at some prominent investments in social media giants made by Arab individuals and corporates.

Mubadala Investment Company

Platform: Telegram
Amount of investment: $75 million  

In March of this year, Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company announced that it had invested $75 million in the cloud-based messaging platform Telegram. Mubadala said its investment is a five-year pre-IPO convertible bond of the app, founded in 2013 by Pavel and Nikolai Durov as a secure messaging platform using end-to-end encryption. This investment comes as part of Abu Dhabi’s plan to further expand its technology ecosystem, according to the fund. Telegram’s co-founder Pavel Durov is the UAE’s richest resident, with a real-time net worth of $17.2 billion as of July 2, 2021.

Abu Dhabi Catalyst Partners (ADCP)

Platform: Telegram
Amount of investment: $75 mn 

ADCP, a joint venture between Mubadala Investment Company and New York-based Falcon Edge Capital, also invested another $75 million in Telegram on the same day as Mubadala’s investment. The platform is climbing in popularity, with the number of active users growing from zero to 500 million over the past seven years. Telegram is reportedly planning to establish an office in Abu Dhabi Global Market, the financial-free zone of the city.

Alwaleed Bin Talal

Platform: Snapchat
Amount of investment: $250 mn  

In 2018, Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud tweeted a video of him with Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel stating that he has invested $250 mn in exchange for 2.3% of Snapchat’s shares. The Saudi businessman bought the shares with no voting rights or direct influence on the company’s decisions, according to TechCrunch. The announcement came just hours before the social media platform had released its Q2 earnings. At the time, the company was not performing well, as its share price was dropping, closing at $12.3 on the day of the announcement and at $5.5 by the end of 2018.

Alwaleed Bin Talal & Kingdom Holding Company

Platform: Twitter  
Amount of investment: $1 bn 

Kingdom Holding Company (KHC), the investment holding owned by Alwaleed Bin Talal, announced in December 2011 that both KHC and the Saudi Prince had invested $300 mn in the social media platform. The initial investment came two years before Twitter went public in 2013. A few years later, in 2015, both KHC and Bin Talal increased their stakes in Twitter to a total of 34.9 million shares. This represented 5% of the platform’s common stock at a market value of $1 bn, recorded in October 2015, making the Prince and KHC the second-largest stakeholder of Twitter at the time.

Mansour Family & Man Capital

Platform: Twitter & Facebook
Amount of Investment: Unknown 

Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Mansour has revealed that he and his family were early investors in Facebook before the social network’s IPO in 2012. The serial investor began backing tech companies around 15 years ago, according to Bloomberg. His family-owned investing arm, Man Capital, which was established in 2010, is also an investor in Facebook and Twitter, along with other Silicon Valley giants such as Spotify and Uber. The three Mansour brothers, Yasseen, Mohamed, and Youssef, are billionaires with a combined net worth of $5.1 bn as of July 2, 2021.