Way before Spotify did its direct listing, Deezer was shaping up to be the music streaming service most likely to do an IPO. Everything was going swimmingly until October 2015 when it announced that it was postponing its plans to raise $343m this way – citing “market conditions” as the reason why. As Spotify was gearing up to make its play on Wall Street, Deezer CEO Hans-Holger Albrecht suggested in September 2017 that if its Swedish rival emerged covered in glory then this might trigger Deezer’s own IPO. But then… nothing.
In August last year, Deezer secured €160m in new funding and now a piece in The National quotes Albrecht on the subject of an IPO, saying, “Going public is an opportunity… it is something that we will consider in the next 12 to 18 months.” ‘Considering’ and ‘doing’ are, of course, two very different things. And in the same interview, Albrecht even dampened down his comments on a possible IPO by saying the company is not currently looking to do a new funding round. “We can raise new money and we also know what to do with that, but it is not on our agenda right now,” he said. “Deezer is well-funded and currently in a very fortunate situation.” So Deezer is not ruling out an IPO and neither is it ruling one in. For now.
The focus of the piece in The National then became about Deezer’s growth in the Middle East and North Africa which contained a number of interesting insights into where the company is seeing its growth against the major market duopoly of Apple Music and Spotify. Deezer made its play in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) last year and Albrecht, while not talking about specific paying subscriber numbers, said they are aiming for 4m registrations in MENA.
Localisation there is key, he says, but Deezer appears to be focusing more around non-music content as part of that play. “Our plan is to go beyond music and produce original audio content for Mena customers in [the] next two years,” said Albrecht. “It will include podcasts, audio books, talk shows and comedy shows.”
It appears that Deezer’s strategy is to double down on the markets that the digital behemoths are, for now, not focusing too heavily on as they slug it out for dominance in the top 20 markets. “For us, Mena is not just a small region like it could be for Apple or Amazon,” suggested Albrecht. “We really want to build our strong presence here. Though this region is still small in revenues but our interest is driven by potential. Music streaming penetration is very small in Mena, less than 2 per cent of the population, whereas in other markets like Scandinavia it is more than 40 per cent.” He also suggested that major telco deals in Mena could be imminent.