As Amazon searches for growth outside the U.S., its next big push is the Middle East.
Amazon has been reaching out in recent weeks to large third-party sellers in North America, informing them of an upcoming opportunity to reach consumers, first in the United Arab Emirates and then in Saudi Arabia, according to several merchants who spoke with CNBC. They all asked not to be identified because the discussions with Amazon were private.
With the launch of the Middle East marketplace in the coming months, Amazon is downplaying Souq.com, the Dubai-based online retailer it bought for $580 million in 2017 — its priciest international acquisition. The company is telling North American sellers not to sign up to sell on Souq because it plans to have all that inventory on Amazon's own site.
"Following Amazon's acquisition of Souq, I want to offer you participation in a groundbreaking new sales project in the Mid East," Amazon wrote in an invitation to a select group of sellers. "Our program is simple, straightforward and allows you to expand your selection to a new base of Amazon buyers."
An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment.
The move comes as Amazon seeks to find a formula for profitable growth in its retail business, which counts on North America for 69 percent of revenue. The U.K., Germany, and Japan account for the majority of international sales. Amazon has struggled to build substantial businesses in China and India because of local laws and hefty competition, and its retail division still loses money every quarter when excluding the U.S. and Canada.