Uber has attracted $3.5 billion in funding from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, an investment it says will help it expand in both Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Middle East.
Uber has just received one of the largest ever cash infusions into a privately held company when Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund invested $3.5 billion into the rideshare company valuing the company at $62.5 billion dollars! This is higher that Uber’s last round that valued it closer to $50 billion.
Uber aims to expand and defend territory
A NY Times report stated
Uber has been spending not only to expand but also to defend its territory — which covers 460 cities in more than 69 countries — against incumbents in regions like Southeast Asia and Europe. China, in particular, is a difficult battleground, as Uber is spending millions in a subsidy war with Didi Chuxing, the dominant ride-hailing start-up in the country.
The Middle East is among Uber’s increasingly important overseas markets; the company has already said it plans to invest $250 million there. Uber has rolled out its service in 15 cities and nine countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia.
The start-up said that it now has over 395,000 active riders in the Middle East, up fivefold from a year ago, and 19,000 drivers.
Uber said expanding its service may be a boon for Saudi Arabia, a country where women are not allowed to drive because of fatwas, or religious edicts, issued by conservative Muslim clerics that uphold a distinct segregation between the sexes. There is no formal law prohibiting women from driving in the region.
“Of course we think women should be allowed to drive,” said Jill Hazelbaker, an Uber spokeswoman. “In the absence of that, we have been able to provide extraordinary mobility that didn’t exist before — and we’re incredibly proud of that.”
Still, Uber did not say that it planned to hire women drivers in the country, unlike in most other regions where the company operates.
Roughly 80 percent of Uber’s riders in Saudi Arabia are women, according to the company. Uber has sought to aid the kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan, which includes more than doubling the number of women in the overall work force by 2030, to 30 percent.
Princess Reema bint Bandar al-Saud, who sits on Uber’s public policy advisory board, has worked with Uber to usher the service into the country and has the support of female users of the service, said in an interview that the investment was a clear sign of change coming to the region.
“We appreciate the vote of confidence in our business as we continue to expand our global presence,” Travis Kalanick, one of Uber’s founders and its chief executive, said in a statement. “Our experience in Saudi Arabia is a great example of how Uber can benefit riders, drivers and cities and we look forward to partnering to support their economic and social reforms.”
This is Uber’s single largest cash infusion to date.
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