A multimillion-dollar sale of the Middle Eastern business portal Zawya is expected to be finalised next month, with several global and regional media companies in the running.
Thomson Reuters, Emap and Pearson, which owns the Financial Times, have expressed an interest in acquiring the website, The National has learnt.
If negotiations are successful, Zawya is expected to be sold for tens of millions of dollars, with a new owner chosen within six weeks.
Gunnar Skoog, Zawya's chief executive, said several companies were negotiating with the owners of the site.
"We are in final stages in the sales process," said Mr Skoog. "In four to six weeks we will have clarity on who the new owners of Zawya will be."
International and regional companies were vying to buy the portal, Mr Skoog said. "It has reached the final stage of due diligence. And there are a number of regional and international players that are negotiating with the owners."
Saffar Holdings, a Dubai investment company that holds a 60 per cent stake in Zawya, last year appointed Arma Partners, a London consultancy, to advise on a sale of the portal.
Mr Skoog declined to specify names of bidders for Zawya. However, people involved in the transaction identified four companies that have expressed an interest in acquiring the site.
They are Thomson Reuters, a business-data provider; Mergermarket, which is part of FT Group, a division of Pearson; the British media company Emap, whose Middle Eastern subsidiary owns MEED and the business site AMEinfo.com; and Crisil, an Indian credit-ratings agency.
Sources at those companies either declined to comment or did not respond to inquiries.
Mr Skoog would not confirm who had submitted bids, but he acknowledged that the four companies named were among the "players that have a vested interest in getting better coverage" of the region.
"I'm confirming that those are among the financial players that have, or might have an interest in Zawya," he said.
He also suggested that more than four companies have expressed interest.
Zawya has a partnership with Dow Jones to provide a newswire service in the Middle East. Mr Skoog said Dow Jones, which is part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp empire, had been involved in the sale process, but he would not comment on whether the media company had submitted a bid.
"Dow Jones has been included in the whole process; it is a very important partner to us," said Mr Skoog. "We certainly hope that Dow Jones can stay with Zawya."
Zawya derives most of its revenue from subscriptions to its premium information service. It also sells advertising on its free site.
The portal says it has "over 5,000" paying subscribers and 750,000 unique visitors to the free website. "Obviously we want to improve," said Mr Skoog.
"We had double-digit growth last year; we're going to have double-digit growth this year. And our ambitions are very high."
Zawya has 200 employees in the UAE and Lebanon, and this month unveiled a new website design and brand identity.
"Zawya has been around for quite a long time here in the Middle East," said Mr Skoog. "We launched in 2000 and have stayed with the logo and with the way the website has looked since that time. So it was time to move on."