x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Facebook 'likes' the Middle East as it plans more jobs

Facebook plans to boost its staff base in the Middle East amid a forecast of "double-digit" growth in the online advertising market.

Jonathan Labin, the head of Facebook's operations in Dubai. Razan Alzayani / The National
Jonathan Labin, the head of Facebook's operations in Dubai. Razan Alzayani / The National

Facebook plans to boost its staff base in the Middle East amid a forecast of "double-digit" growth in the online advertising market.

In May, the social media giant opened an office in Dubai, just after its poorly received initial public offering on the Nasdaq.

Only three staff work at its regional office - but the company plans to recruit more, in line with the growing advertising market, said Jonathan Labin, the head of Facebook's operations in Dubai.

"As the market grows we'll expand the team," he said. "We're very positive about the growth and the prospects in the region."

The executive said recruitment would start "soon" but declined to specify how many staff Facebook was looking to employ.

"The office will grow as the market demands grow," he said.

The region's digital advertising market is forecast to be worth US$295 million (Dh1.08 billion) this year, according to the Arab Media Outlook , which was published in April in collaboration with the Dubai Press Club and Deloitte.

Mr Labin expects the Middle East and North Africa's (Mena) online advertising market to grow by 10 per cent or more annually over the next few years.

"The overall ad market will probably grow a little bit," he said. "But the online ad market will grow considerably. I believe it is at least double-digit growth for the coming years. We'll see the market grow, and the Facebook share grow as well."

Despite this, the overall advertising market in the Mena region is "small compared with other regions, Mr Labin said.

According to the Arab Media Outlook, advertising spending per capita in the Arab world stood at just $15.90 last year. That compares with $466 per person spent by advertisers in the United States, and $262 in western Europe.

"The overall ad market is relatively small if you think about ad spend per capita. I'm convinced that it will grow," Mr Labin said of the Mena region.

Facebook has about 45 million Mena users but does not publicly disclose its advertising revenues for the region. The company reported total global revenues of $3.71bn last year.

Elie Khouri, the chief executive of Omnicom Media Group in the Mena region, estimated in May Facebook was on track for regional revenues of just $20m this year.

But Mr Khouri told The Nationalat the time that would "grow phenomenally fast" in the future.

Facebook's inroads in the Middle East come after huge losses on the Nasdaq following its IPO.

Shares in the company have shed almost half their value since first being sold for $38 apiece on May 18.

bflanagan@thenational.ae

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