Chinese on-demand local services company Meituan is poised to launch its international food-delivery platform, KeeTa, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Bloomberg has reported.

The move represents the company’s first foray into an overseas market, amidst a slowdown in domestic growth.

The anticipated launch in Riyadh, one of the wealthiest cities in the Middle East, is part of Meituan’s broader strategy to seek growth opportunities abroad as competition in China intensifies while local consumption is falling.

The launch, which comes after its recent debut in Hong Kong, is anticipated to happen before the end of June 2024.

Meituan will compete against established local Riyadh players such as Jahez International, Delivery Hero’s Talabat, HungerStation and Uber Technologies-backed Careem.

The company is expected to employ a subsidy-heavy strategy to attract users and delivery personnel, similar to its approach in Hong Kong.

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Meituan plans to roll out the KeeTa platform in phases, initially targeting specific districts of the city.

Despite its detailed plans for entry into the Middle Eastern market, the company has indicated that these plans are still subject to change, and it may decide to pause its expansion efforts.

It is also contemplating other markets in the region.

KeeTa was introduced to Hong Kong in May 2023 and quickly rose to become the second most popular food-delivery service there, surpassing Deliveroo.

Its launch in Hong Kong was seen as a preliminary step towards a more extensive global expansion strategy.

The significance of Meituan’s international ambitions was underscored when CEO Wang Xing took direct control of the company’s overseas operations in February 2024.

During an earnings call in March, Wang emphasised the company’s active pursuit of international expansion, supported by its strong cash reserves and cash flow from domestic operations.