About a year after launching in Hong Kong – its first overseas market, Meituan seems finally poised to enter its second – Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). 

Rumours of Meituan’s direct entry into the Middle East through its KeeTa brand have been going around since the end of last year, about the same time Meituan evaluated and declined to acquire Foodpanda in Southeast Asia.

The recruitment ads put on LinkedIn over the last couple of days served as an indirect official confirmation:

Will Meituan succeed in Saudi Arabia? Some thoughts: 

  1. A few people asked us why Saudi Arabia. Meituan is essentially a very cautious company, where any major move would have been thoroughly analysed and debated on before resources are committed to launch. They have probably analysed supplies (of F&B operators & riders), consumption power, demographics and city topography (for order density), and many other factors;
  2. Major competitors in the Saudi market are DeliveryHero’s owned HungerStation, publicly listed Jahez, as well as the food arm of Uber-acquired Careem. Jahez has been profitable for a few years, while the bigger HungerStation is probably also profitable;
  3. Jahez delivered an average of 211k orders/day in the first half of 2023 – probably smaller than a district of Beijing for Meituan. In 2023, Meituan was delivering more than 60 million orders/day, with a peak volume of 78 million;
  4. Jahez had an average order value (AOV) of SAR 60 (US$16), far higher than Meituan’s  ~US$7 in China. This either means that Saudi Arabia is a really good market, or there is a large segment that remains untapped;
  5. As for the argument that average Saudis are much richer than Chinese: the cities of Beijing and Shanghai have a combined population 25% larger than the whole of KSA, with GDP per capita at about 80% of KSA’s levels. So not that much big difference;
  6. In Hong Kong, Meituan’s order volume market share almost caught up with DeliveryHero’s Foodpanda in 2023, according to our friends at Measurable.ai. This probably gave the team the confidence that Meituan’s core capabilities can actually work in a non mainland-Chinese market;
  7. That said, KSA is a drastically different market compared to Hong Kong – you can send mainland Chinese managers to Hong Kong and expect them to still function, you can’t do that with KSA. Will locally-hired managers work well with the strong Chinese-speaking core? We have explained the challenges Meituan would face extensively in our book “Seeing the unseen: behind Chinese tech giants’ global venturing”;
  8. Which leads to the interesting question – does DeliveryHero’s strategy of acquiring leading players in each market actually work? Chinese internet executives often complain about DeliveryHero being essentially a private equity firm with no deep operational synergies among the various companies they had acquired;
  9. However, we think the question should be flipped around. How could DeliveryHero be possibly building effective synergies in a set of drastically different companies in very different markets? DeliveryHero leadership has to be very careful balancing group objectives and market diversities;
  10. Since a restructuring in February, Meituan’s founder and CEO Wang Xing is now directly overseeing the overseas businesses. This probably gives the team actually executing the expansion more organisational support. Wang Xing is by nature cautious but very exploratory, so while launching takes step by step,many other markets are probably already in his sight;
  11. Meituan’s drones, whose development Wang Xing also personally oversees, might prove more practical in Saudi Arabia.

All the best to Tony and his team. This will be an interesting venture to watch.

Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at [email protected].


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Jianggan Li is the Founder & CEO of Momentum Works. Prior to founding Momentum Works, he co-founded Easy Taxi in Asia, and served as Managing Director of Foodpanda. The two years running Rocket Internet companies has given him a lifetime experience on supersonic implementation, and good camaraderie with entrepreneurs across the developing world. He holds a MBA from INSEAD (GMAT 770) and a degree in Computer Engineering from Nanyang Technological University. Unfortunately he never wrote a single line of code professionally - but in his first job he was in media, travelling extensively across Asia & Europe, speaking with Ministers & (occasionally) Prime Ministers. Apart from English and his native Mandarin, he is also fluent in French and conversational in Cantonese & Spanish. He tried to learn Latin (for three years) and Sanskrit (for six months) as well. In his (scarce) free time, he reads, travels, hikes and dives. Pyongyang, Tehran & Chisinau are among the interesting cities he has been to.