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US firm mulls stake in Starbucks Middle East franchise as local competition heats up

Apollo Asset Management's reported interest comes after the coffee chain said boycotts related to the Gaza war had hurt its regional business.
A man poses for video outside a Starbucks coffee shop in a market area in Dubai on May 18, 2023.

US private equity firm Apollo Global Management is in talks to buy a minority stake in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia Starbucks franchise operated by Kuwait's AlShaya Group, according to a report. The news comes at a time when many people are boycotting the US-based coffee chain over its perceived pro-Israel stance and are instead turning to local alternatives to source their daily brew.

The Starbucks unit runs around 2,000 cafes in 13 countries across the Middle East and North Africa as well as Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. It used to operate around 130 stores in Russia, but closed them following the country’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Starbucks has been operating in the Middle East since 1999.

Reuters reported Thursday about the deal, in which the Kuwaiti food and retail group is expected to sell around 30% of the business. 

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund the Public Investment Fund is still in negotiations to buy its own stake, two sources told Reuters Thursday. 

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