Singapore competition watchdog fines Grab, Uber $9.5 million over merger

Uber sold its Southeast Asian business to bigger regional rival Grab in March in exchange for a 27.5 percent stake in the Singapore-based firm. (Reuters)
Updated 24 September 2018
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Singapore competition watchdog fines Grab, Uber $9.5 million over merger

  • US-based Uber Technologies sold its Southeast Asian business to bigger regional rival Grab in March in exchange for a 27.5 percent stake in the Singapore-based firm
  • Grab said it completed the transaction within its legal rights, and maintained it did not intentionally or negligently breach competition laws

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s anti-trust watchdog fined ride-hailing firms Grab and Uber a combined S$13 million ($9.5 million) over their merger deal, and ordered Uber to sell vehicles from its local leasing business to any rival that makes a reasonable offer.
US-based Uber Technologies sold its Southeast Asian business to bigger regional rival Grab in March in exchange for a 27.5 percent stake in the Singapore-based firm.
The deal invited regulatory scrutiny in the region, with the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) — in a rare move — launching an investigation just days after the deal was announced.
The CCCS on Monday said it had finalized several measures to lessen the impact of the transaction on drivers and riders, and open up the market for new players. It also said it found the merger substantially reduced competition in the market.
The regulator said it has fined Uber S$6.6 million and Grab S$6.4 million to deter future completed, irreversible mergers that harm competition. It also ordered Grab to remove its exclusivity arrangements with drivers and taxi fleets.
“Mergers that substantially lessen competition are prohibited and CCCS has taken action against the Grab-Uber merger because it removed Grab’s closest rival, to the detriment of Singapore drivers and riders,” CCCS Chief Executive Toh Han Li said in a statement.
The regulator said effective fares on Grab rose 10 to 15 percent after the deal, and that the firm now holds a Singapore market share of around 80 percent.
It told Grab to maintain its pre-merger pricing algorithm and driver commission rates.
It also ordered Uber to sell vehicles of its Singapore-based Lion City Rentals to any potential competitor who makes a reasonable offer based on fair-market value, and prohibited Uber from selling those vehicles to Grab without regulatory approval.
Lion City’s fleet totaled 14,000 vehicles as of December.
Uber said it believed the CCCS’s decision was based on an “inappropriately narrow definition of the market, and that it incorrectly describes the dynamic nature of the industry, among other concerns.” It said it would consider appealing.
Grab said it completed the transaction within its legal rights, and maintained it did not intentionally or negligently breach competition laws.
It added that it had not raised fares since the deal, and said for drivers to have full maximum choice, all transport players, including taxi operators, should also be subjected to non-exclusivity conditions.
It said it would abide by remedies set out by the CCCS.


Can a hungry Mali turn rice technology into ‘white gold’?

Updated 20 October 2018
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Can a hungry Mali turn rice technology into ‘white gold’?

  • Malians are cautiously turning to a controversial farming technique to adapt to the effects of climate change
  • Dubbed the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), the new method was pioneered in Madagascar in 1983

BAGUINEDA: When rice farmers started producing yields nine times larger than normal in the Malian desert near the famed town of Timbuktu a decade ago, a passerby could have mistaken the crop for another desert mirage.
Rather, it was the result of an engineering feat that has left experts in this impoverished nation in awe — but one that has yet to spread widely through Mali’s farming community.
“We must redouble efforts to get political leaders on board,” said Djiguiba Kouyaté, a coordinator in Mali for German development agency GIZ.
With hunger a constant menace, Malians are cautiously turning to a controversial farming technique to adapt to the effects of climate change.

 

Dubbed the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), the new method was pioneered in Madagascar in 1983. It involves planting fewer seeds of traditional rice varieties and taking care of them following a strict regime.
Seedlings are transplanted at a very young age and spaced widely. Soil is enriched with organic matter, and must be kept moist, though the system uses less water than traditional rice farming.
Up to 20 million farmers now use SRI in 61 countries, including in nearby Sierra Leone, Senegal and Ivory Coast, said Norman Uphoff, of the SRI International Network and Resources Center at Cornell University in the US.
But, despite its success, the technique has been embraced with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Uphoff said that is because it competes with the improved hybrid and inbred rice varieties that agricultural corporations sell.
For Faliry Boly, who heads a rice-growing association, the prospect of rice becoming a “white gold” for Mali should spur on authorities and farmers to adopt rice intensification.
The method could increase yields while also offering a more environmentally-friendly alternative, including by replacing chemical fertilizers with organic ones, he said.
He also pointed out that rice intensification naturally lends itself to Mali’s largely arid climate.

FACTOID

Up to 20 million farmers now use rice intensification in 61 countries, including in nearby Sierra Leone, Senegal and Ivory Coast.