x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Middle East is one of Facebook's most important markets

The Middle East is one of Facebook's most important markets, according to its regional chief as the company posted a net loss of US$59 million yesterday in the third quarter.

The Middle East is one of Facebook's most important markets, according to its regional chief as the company posted a net loss of US$59 million (Dh216.7m) yesterday in the third quarter.

The social networking website, which went public in May, is focusing on driving growth from the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region.

"We opened our office in Dubai three months ago.

"There are 350 million people in the region, it was a natural step for us to be in the region to enable us to work closer with our key partners and learn from the market," said Jonathan Labin, the Mena regional manager at Facebook.

Facebook says it has more than a billion active users worldwide.

There are currently about 45 million subscribers across Mena, of which half access the website on their mobile phone.

About 14 per cent of its total advertising revenue comes from mobile ads, which totalled $150m in the third quarter, up from about $45m in the second quarter of this year.

The company is focusing on building up a base of business partners in the region to drive advertising growth on its website.

"Advertising per capita spend is not that high right now, but I think it will grow," said Mr Labin.

Facebook was propelled most recently to prominence in the Middle East as it became a favoured tool by Arab Spring protestersfor disseminating information. "The Arab Spring has had a huge impact on Facebook," Mr Labin said.

"We were a platform for people to share their opinion and voice. Users have been engaged which has driven growth."

Egypt had the most Facebook subscribers in the region with 11.6 million, about a 15 per cent penetration rate.

Facebook use was highest in Qatar, at 87 per cent; Yemen was the lowest, at 2.6 per cent of the population.

thamid@thenational.ae