Upcoming e-commerce platform Noon.com is scaling up its operations and recruitment in Riyadh prior to its expected launch, which has been delayed by nearly five months.

Noon founding partner Mohamed Alabbar, who is also chairman of Dubai-based developer Emaar Properties, recently confirmed that the launch is expected soon following the development of the platform’s beta programme.

Alabbar said the company’s permanent operational base will also be in Riyadh, where the main headquarters is located.

It is understood that the company has reduced its workforce in Dubai, where the beta programme development has been undertaken, although this was not addressed by Alabbar in his statement.

Noon is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) – which has a 50 per cent stake in the company – and UAE investors, led by Alabbar.

It promised offer 20 million products ranging from electronics to fashion and books, among others.

The plan to initially launch Noon.com in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, prior to expanding services to cover the entire Middle East region, seems to remain in place.

According to the initial plan, Noon’s online operations will be supported by a 10 million square-feet of warehousing capacity that would include a logistics centre in the UAE, same day delivery through Noon Transportation, an in-house express delivery service, and online payments using a secure gateway (NoonPay). It is unclear if any of these plans has changed over the past few months.

In December last year, it appointed US-based law firm Latham & Watkins to advise on the development of the platform.

It is understood that Alabbar-led Emaar Malls made an unsuccessful bid to acquire Souq.com earlier this year.

US-based Amazon bought the Dubai-based online retailer in late March.

The two companies are now expected to compete fiercely for the region’s rapidly growing online retail market.