Uber to invest indefinitely in Middle East market, says Harford

Uber rules out minority deal with Dubai-based Careem
Uber chief operating officer Barney Harford.
By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Thu 26 Apr 2018 11:44 AM

Uber's chief operating officer Barney Harford said the company will increase its investment in key growth markets like the Middle East, which might include a bid for Dubai-based Careem, its rival in the region. 

The US-based ride-hailing firm recently sold its South-East Asia business to Singapore-based rival Grab and now has "resources available that are allowing us to double down in critical competitive markets in particular India and the Middle East North Africa", Harford told CNBC television.

Responding to CNBC question about the possibility of acquiring Careem - its rival in the Middle East - Harford said that the company has ruled out "transactions for minority stakes.”

"We've been very clear about is that going forward we have no interest in doing transactions for minority stakes,” he told the broadcaster.

“It would be crazy for us as a hypergrowth company to not engage in conversations about potential partnerships

“But we’ve been very clear, the markets that we remain in today are core markets for us.

“We’re doubling down on our investment and we’re very committed to these markets,” he added.

Harford said that the situation in the Middle East with Careem “is very different” to Southeast Asia, where Uber got a 27.5 percent stake in Grab - valued at roughly $6 billion - in return for its operations there. 

“There were three players in that market. We had a smaller position,” he said. “We…operate in a position of very clear strength here in the Middle East and North Africa market.”

Uber made a loss of $4.5bn last year, despite a 61 percent increase in sales. He said the profitable markets it operates in will allow Uber to invest indefinitely in markets like the Middle East and North Africa.

"We actually are in a fortunate position that a good number of the markets that we operate the ride sharing business today are already profitable. We are able to use the profits from those markets to allow us to invest on an indefinite basis in key growth markets such as the Middle East and North Africa where we've announced plans to double down investments," Harford said. 

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