Middle East’s MBC Group could launch IPO in 2023

Middle Eastern pan-regional broadcaster and streamer MBC Group is working with HSBC Holdings and JPMorgan Chase on an IPO. Details about valuation and scope are sketchy at this stage, but a public listing could come as early as next year.

Currently, MBC is 60% owned by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with the balance in the hands of Saudi founder and chairman Waleed Al-Ibrahim. The company is based in Saudi, having relocated to a plush new HQ in Riyadh from Dubai in September 2022.

Launched in London in 1991, MBC has been a key force in pan-regional broadcasting over the last three decades – but increasingly is seen as a jewel in the Saudi media industry’s crown. In recent times, its streaming platform Shahid has emerged as a major force in the region. Currently it has between 2-3 million subscribers, and is expected to maintain market leadership over rival Netflix in the medium term.

First reported by Bloomberg, any prospective IPO is unlikely to see the balance of power within the group shift substantially. Saudi Arabia keeps tight control over its media sector, which suggests there will only be a limited role for foreign media groups – particularly as the IPO is expected to be on the Saudi stock exchange.

That said, the Saudi stock exchange (the Tadawul) has been buzzing in the last year, with dozens of IPO applications. One of these was for ad sales firm Alarabia, which itself is part-owned by MBC. That IPO attracted strong interest from Saudi and international institutions as well as the general public in Saudi. As a result, an MBC IPO may prove popular with investors seeking to piggyback regional streaming growth. This in turn could generate additional funds for local content investment.

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