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August 20, 2015

Uber takes on Didi Kuaidi as taxi apps jostle for Asian investment

Chinese and American ride-hailers are surging across southern Asia.

By Jimmy Nicholls

Uber’s growth in the Asian taxi-hailing market is under threat after Chinese rivals Didi Kuaidi joined a $350m investment into South East Asian competitor GrabTaxi on Wednesday.

Under the plans GrabTaxi, which is also being backed by sovereign wealth fund the Chinese Investment Corporation in the round, will expand bike and private vehicle hiring services recently rolled out in Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.

However the company denied it was plotting an outright sale to Didi Kuaidi, with GrabTaxi’s operations in six markets – all of which are served by Uber – complementing the Chinese firm’s dominance of China.

"That’s not on the cards at the moment," Cheryl Goh, a spokesperson for the company, told the Financial Times. "We have a good relationship."

Whilst Didi Kuaidi pushes into South East Asia, Uber announced a deal with Indian conglomerate Tata Capital which could land the San Franciscan firm some $100m (£64m) and the opportunity to exploit its backers extensive network in the country.

It follows a commitment from Uber to invest $1bn as it expands its claimed market share of 35% in India, with 150,000 drivers currently signed up to the service.

Travis Kalanick, chief executive at Uber, said: "Right now, we’re particularly focused on building a great service for hundreds of millions of Indians.

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"Tata’s leadership and experience will be crucial in helping us meet this important goal."

The global expansion comes against a backdrop of worldwide litigation against Uber, with a civil lawsuit in California alleging on Wednesday that drivers convicted of murder and sex crimes had passed through the firm’s vetting system.

San Francisco district attorney George Gascon said in a statement that he supported technological innovation, but that it "does not give companies a license to mislead consumers about issues affecting their safety."

His concerns echo similar cases in Europe and elsewhere, where Uber has courted hostility from taxi driver unions and politicians concerned about the safety of the service.

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