Uber Selling Southeast Asian Business to Regional Rival Grab

Arsenio Balisacan chairman of the Philippine Competition Commission

A mix of concern and disappointment met Uber Technologies Inc's deal to sell its Southeast Asian business to bigger regional rival Grab, as drivers and users of the ride-hailing firms took in the prospect of sharply reduced competition. The U.S. ride-hailing behemoth in return gets a 27.5 per cent stake in Grab and its chief executive officer will join the board of the Singapore-based company.

However, following a similar merger between Grab investor Didi Chuxing and China's Uber business in 2016, driver numbers dropped dramatically as subsidies lapsed and new regulations raised residence requirements for drivers.

Since becoming Uber's CEO in September, Dara Khosrowshahi has been maneuvering to make the company profitable before a planned initial public offering expected next year.

Since that 2016 peak, the company has been rocked by a number of scandals including allegations of stolen self-driving tech from Waymo (which has since been settled), allegations of sexual harassment, the loss of CEO and founder Travis Kalanick, and most recently the death of a pedestrian in Arizona caused by one of the company's self-driving auto prototypes.

Given the latest developments, See says it is very likely the proposed deal between ComfortDelGro and Uber could be renegotiated, with the following scenarios likely to emerge.

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The value of the deal, which Grab said was the largest ever acquisition by a Southeast Asian internet company, was not disclosed. The acquisition marks the beginning of a new era.

Last year, Uber merged in Russian Federation with the taxi-hailing app of internet giant Yandex. On Facebook and LinkedIn, the Singapore-headquartered firm uploaded photos of new work spaces for Uber employees who were let go on Monday. Grab was last valued at $6 billion after a financing round in July. Grab has been seeking to dominate the regional market for auto and motorbike hailing and has expanded into other areas, recently announcing plans to partner with a Japanese credit card company to provide credit to millions of people without bank accounts.

Although the deal was widely reported in the media for several weeks, the official announcement by the two companies caught some off guard: Hundreds of Uber's staffers in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore were given two hours notice to vacate their offices and put on three-months leave pending their potential absorption into Grab.

Uber invested $700 million in its Southeast Asia business.

Today, with more than 86 million mobile app downloads, it offers a wide range of ride-hailing services in 191 cities across Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia.

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