SoftBank Group Corp. is pushing to take a commanding stake in the ride-hailing market, angling for a piece of Uber Technologies Inc.
after spreading its bets across a trio of Asian startups.
The Japanese tech giant has approached Uber about taking a multibillion-dollar stake in the San Francisco company, people familiar with the matter said, an offer that would muddy an already confusing mix of alliances and competitors in the global ride-hailing business.
SoftBank is a big investor in the three largest Asian ride-hailing companies: Singapore’s GrabTaxi Holdings Pte., India’s Ola and China’s Didi
Chuxing Technology Co. On Monday, SoftBank confirmed it and Didi
would lead a $2.5 billion fundraising round in Grab, giving the startup more ammo in its battle against Uber across Southeast Asia.
SoftBank’s talks with Uber are described as preliminary and one-sided, and any deal would likely be on hold until Uber hires a new chief executive, which isn’t expected for weeks, the people familiar with the matter said. An Uber spokesman declined to comment. SoftBank didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
While it is rare for SoftBank to hedge its investments, an offer could mean it hopes Uber combines its operations with Grab and Ola, as it did last year with Didi.
Such a merger would give SoftBank a formidable share of the Asian market.
Uber, which is struggling with management challenges at home and strong competition from rivals overseas, has shown a willingness to retreat from costly battles around the world. Earlier this month it said it plans to combine its operations with Russian rival Yandex.Taxi, owned by Yandex NV.
Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick relinquished his role as chief executive last month after an investigation into sexual harassment and sexism at the company, although he remains a director.
SoftBank and Didi
will pour as much as $2 billion into Grab, which operates private-car, taxi, motorcycle and carpool bookings across seven countries Asia.
The deal would value Grab at more than $6 billion, making it the region’s most-valuable startup, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Southeast Asia’s ride-hailing market could grow to $13.1 billion by 2025-from $2.5 billion in 2015-according to a report last year by Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Singapore state-investment firm Temasek Holdings.
Source: The Wall Street Journal