Uber said to reach agreement on South-east Asian sale to rival Grab

Uber has reached an agreement to sell its ride-hailing business in South-east Asia with Grab, in exchange for a stake in the combined service. PHOTOS: EPA-EFE, BLOOMBERG

SAN FRANCISCO/SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - Uber Technologies Inc has reached an agreement to sell its South-east Asian ride-hailing business to rival Grab and could announce the deal as early as Monday morning (March 26) in Singapore, people familiar with the matter said.

The agreement - which includes all of Uber's operations in South-east Asia as well as Uber Eats in the region - gives Uber a stake of between 25 per cent and 30 per cent in the new combined business, the people said, asking not to be identified ahead of an official announcement.

The deal, which Bloomberg outlined earlier this month, marks Uber's operational exit from yet another major market and hands a victory to Grab as it battles local competitor Go-Jek in Indonesia.

SoftBank Group Corp, a major backer of Grab's and Uber's as well as China's Didi Chuxing, has pushed consolidation to improve the profitability of a global ride-hailing business that bleeds billions of dollars a year.

New entrants and the strength of second-place regional players such as Lyft Inc in the US has complicated those efforts.

Representatives for Grab and Uber declined to comment.

The deal represents another major retreat from international markets for Uber.

Travis Kalanick, Uber's former chief executive officer, sold Uber's business in China in 2016 in return for a 17.5 per cent stake in Chinese ride-hailing leader Didi Chuxing.

Then Uber agreed to sell its Russian business to Yandex - just before Dara Khosrowshahi took over as chief executive.

Khosrowshahi has been pushing to clean up the company's financials in preparations for an initial public offering next year.

Pulling out of markets like South-east Asia would boost profits at a company that has burned through US$10.7 billion (S$14.07 billion) since its founding nine years ago.

Khosrowshahi signalled during a trip through Asia last month that he is committed to key markets such as Japan and India.

Grab, which has more than 86 million mobile app downloads, currently offers services in more than 190 cities across Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia.

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