Asia Minute: Uber Takes a Ride Out of Southeast Asia

Apr 5, 2018

Credit Uber Technologies Inc. / Wikimedia Commons

The way people get around in Southeast Asia is about to change. Not for everyone, but for those who have become used to using an app to get a ride. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

If you’re heading to Southeast Asia, don’t expect to get an Uber from the airport. Or from much of anywhere else.

Actually, you can for right now, but only for about another week.

Uber is pulling out of the market, selling its local business to a regional rival called “Grab”—a Malaysian startup based in Singapore. The deal was announced last week, but there was a bit of a surprise this week.

At about 8 o’clock last night, Grab’s service went out in Singapore. And in Malaysia. And Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar and the Philippines. The ride hailing app was down for about three and a half hours.

One result because of the way that these apps are priced, costs surged for riders who turned to an alternative—which, ironically, was Uber—still in operation for now. Uber has been in the region for the past five years, and has sunk about 700 million dollars into its local efforts.

It’s not walking away empty-handed—Uber is taking a stake of 27.5 percent in Grab.

Credit bfishadow / Flickr

Grab has already drawn investment from companies ranging from Japan’s Softbank and Toyota to Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund and South Korea’s Hyundai.

Grab already operates in more than 100 cities in the region, but final approval of the deal is up to state regulators who have to sign off on the plans—in Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines.