Uber sells SEA operations to Grab

FOR almost two years, Riel Mayol, 47, has been driving for Uber. When it was suspended by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board last year, he applied for a franchise with Grab.

Now that he drives for both, he can’t help but notice the difference. “Riders on Uber seem more professional,” he told SunStar Cebu yesterday.

As news of Uber selling its Southeast Asian operations to Grab reached him, he hopes the good things about Uber remain, such as charging passengers who cancel their booking when a driver has just arrived and drivers who choose not to accept passengers if they see that a passenger is going somewhere they don’t want to go.

However, he said it was easy to find passengers under Grab and most of his passengers using the app don’t travel too far.

Grab announced yesterday that it acquired Uber’s Southeast Asia operations and will integrate Uber’s ridesharing and food delivery business in the region into Grab’s existing multi-modal transportation and fintech platform.

Grab will take over Uber’s operations and assets in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. As part of the acquisition, Uber will take a 27.5 percent stake in Grab while Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will join Grab’s board.

“This deal is a testament to Uber’s exceptional growth across Southeast Asia over the last five years. It will help us double down on our plans for growth as we invest heavily in our products and technology to create the best customer experience on the planet,” said Khosrowshahi.

Brian Cu, Grab Philippines country head, said in a statement that the combined services of Grab and Uber signals a wider network of TNVS drivers and passengers and improved ridesharing services.

“We are very excited to welcome Uber drivers to our Grab family. They have our full support and resources in this time of transition. Our partnership with Uber will fuel our drive and passion for a better transport future even more,” said Cu.

For passengers, Cu said the merger means passenger transportation needs will be met faster as there will be larger fleet of drivers on the the platform.

He said passengers will “enjoy shorter waiting times, more convenient and affordable rides through one platform.” As more passengers are expected to use Grab, Cu said also means more jobs, less waiting time, and higher earning potential for driver partners.

Uber drivers will also have access to Grab’s driver support services, incentives and offers, and additional services to protect and enhance their welfare, from personal accident insurance to micro-financing.

“I would like to reassure the government and the public that we continue to work in a collaborative and open manner, as we have done in the past. We will retain our commitment towards quality of service and continue to adhere to regulatory guidelines on activations and pricing,” said Cu.

Reports of a merger between the two rivals have been circulating for months. Stiff competition has led to both having to offer discounts and promotions tot; drivers and passengers to ensure more users. Uber has also been letting go of operations in China and Russia to other companies. It has also suffered several setbacks, from reporting losses to losing its former CEO due to a harassment scandal. It was also in the headlines recently after its self-driving car killed a pedestrian in a car crash in Arizona.

Local Uber driver Raphael Alberio is on a wait and see stance on how the merger of Uber and Grab could affect his livelihood.

He said he has yet to know what will happen to him and his fellow drivers as Uber Philippines has not officially communicated or talked to them.

Alberio has been with Uber for a year now. He chose to sign up with the company because it offers affordable rates to passengers over the rival ride-sharing platform.

“With the merger, I hope we will be able to still compete well and grow in this business,” he said.

According to Grab, nothing changes in the immediate term. Both Grab and Uber drivers can drive as they normally do.

“The Uber app will continue to run for two weeks until April 8, so that Uber drivers can continue to drive while they work to onboard everybody onto the Grab platform.

Uber drivers will need to register to drive with Grab after the Uber service closes,” Grab said.

A frequent passenger of Uber, blogger and Mactan resident Sinjin Pineda said he is saddened by the news, as he always had higher chances of booking a ride using Uber in Mactan, although he uses Grab and Uber alternately when going home, depending on which offers the more reasonable fare.

“It is always better to have another option, but with this development, all we can hope is that we continue to get the same quality, comfort and pricing in our daily rides, despite the looming monopoly of Grab,” he said.

Startup entrepreneur Vince Loremia, in a separate interview, said the drivers are the sure winners of this merger.

“I think the drivers win in this case, as they now have only one company this time, that means no competition on bookings,” he said.

Loremia wonders, though, how the pricing would affect the customers when there is now a monopoly. (With MEA)
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