Facebook opens Dubai office amid IPO debacle

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Facebook dubai inauguration
Facebook executives take questions during a news conference for the opening of Facebook offices in Dubai 30 May, 2012. Social networking site Facebook opens its first office in the Middle East on Wednesday, in Dubai's Internet City, according to local media. Photo - Jumana El Heloueh/Reuters

Facebook opened an office in Dubai on Wednesday and announced it will help boost advertising sales across the region with a user base of more than 45 million people. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) office inauguration comes at a time when its performance on the Nasdaq is coming under intense scrutiny.

Despite the social network’s reported revenue of $3.71 billion last year, some local advertising executives believe it could earn as little as $20 million in MENA region this year.

“Our estimates put them at $20m this year,” Elie Khouri, the chief executive of Omnicom Media Group in the Middle East and North Africa, said adding it will grow phenomenally fast.

Facebook insists it is here in Dubai to tap one of the fastest growing social media markets in the world.

“In an open and connected world, more and more companies are realising that Facebook is the place where they can build strong connections with their customers. We are here to share our experience and learn from the many talented, creative people in this part of the globe,” Joanna Shields, Facebook’s vice-president and managing director for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said.

Facebook insists it has 45 million users in the region and of which 3.1 million are from the UAE. The social network says it has a penetration rate of approximately 36.18% in the UAE and around 67% in Middle East and Africa.

Jonathan Labin, head of global marketing solutions, Facebook Middle East and North Africa, said he will be running the operations in the region with three people and help partners in the region achieve results.

Facebook’s MENA launch comes at a time when its share price are taking a drubbing at NASDAQ.

According to Bloomberg, Facebook’s IPO produced the worst five-day return among the 10 largest United States deals of the past decade.

The social network says it generates 30% of its revenue from credits on social gaming platform while charging 15 million users for purchasing virtual goods on the Facebook platform, making up to $557 million or about 15% of total revenues last year.

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