x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 September 2017

UAE to get online discount deals through US web giant

EXCLUSIVE: Discounts at restaurants, spas and shops are set to become a click away as US internet giant Groupon prepares to launch a site in the UAE.

Groupon, the US-based 'group buying' website valued at around $6 billion (Dh22bn), has set up a UAE website and hopes to start offering internet deals "within the month".

Like its international counterparts, Groupon.ae will offer daily discount deals with local business such as restaurants, spas and shops. Each offer has a minimum quota of people required to make the deal active.

The website will form partnerships with businesses in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

"The site...is up to collect subscribers; when we receive enough - several thousand - we will begin offering daily deals," said a Groupon spokeswoman in an emailed statement. "We hope to begin offering deals within the month."

The unannounced launch of Groupon's UAE website had prompted speculation among Twitter users and bloggers in the Middle East over the validity of the site. One Twitter user remarked that the test site "sure looks like a scam."

The Groupon spokeswoman said that it had made some changes to the test site to make it easier for consumers to understand.

"Even though a particular business was never mentioned (making it clear it was just an example) we removed the 'sold out' notice to ensure the landing page is as easy to understand as possible," said the spokeswoman.

Groupon's entry into the UAE represents tough international competition for the many homegrown equivalents to Groupon in the Middle East, which include the likes of Cobone and GoNabit.

Earlier this month, Groupon walked away from a $6 billion takeover offer from the web search giant Google.

Groupon, a two-year-old startup based in Chicago, has some 35 million subscribers. The company, run by its 30-year-old founder, Andrew Mason, employs about 3,000 people.

bflanagan@thenational.ae