Didi, SoftBank 'lead funding round for Grab'

BEIJING • China's Didi Chuxing and SoftBank Group are leading a new round of funding in top South-east Asian ride-sharing service Grab that could top US$600 million (S$805 million), said people familiar with the deal yesterday.

The round could close as early as this week and would take the total amount of funds available to Grab to more than US$1 billion, the people said on condition of anonymity. Grab declined to comment, SoftBank was not available for comment and Didi did not respond to requests for comment.

This comes just days after Didi bought out Uber Technologies' operations in China, ending a battle that has cost billions of dollars and allowing the US-based company to focus its ambitions elsewhere.

Grab chief executive Anthony Tan said at the time he expected Uber to concentrate on the relatively untapped South-east Asian market. Uber plans to redeploy 150 engineers from its Chinese operations to other key markets, including Grab's backyard, said people with direct knowledge of the plan.

Grab, which operates in 30 cities across six countries, was last valued at US$1.5 billion, according to CB Insights.

On-demand car services have taken off around the world as smartphone usage expands and riders seek simpler or quicker alternatives to taxis and public transportation. But the process of signing up drivers and attracting customers is a costly one, requiring big subsidies on rides.

Didi forged an alliance last year with Grab, India's Ola and the US' Lyft in an effort to thwart Uber, and it is unclear what impact the Chinese deal will have on that tie-up.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2016, with the headline 'Didi, SoftBank 'lead funding round for Grab''. Print Edition | Subscribe