Uber buys rival Careem in $3.1bn deal to dominate ride-hailing in Middle East

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Uber operates in more than 70 countries, but faces strong rivals in Latin America and India, and tough regulations in Europe.
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Uber is said to be preparing to bid for Careem. (Getty Images)
Updated 27 March 2019
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Uber buys rival Careem in $3.1bn deal to dominate ride-hailing in Middle East

  • The $3.1 billion cash-and-stock purchase buys out all outside Careem investors
  • The agreement is subject to regulatory approval, including by antitrust officials in the countries where Careem operates

SAN FRANCISCO: Global ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies will spend $3.1 billion to acquire Middle East rival Careem, buying dominance in a competitive region ahead of a hotly anticipated initial public offering.

Uber said late Monday night it would pay $1.4 billion in cash and $1.7 billion in convertible notes in a deal that gives it full ownership of Careem. The long-expected agreement ends more than nine months of start-and-stop negotiations between the two companies and hands Uber a much-needed victory after a series of overseas divestments.

The notes will be convertible into Uber shares at a price equal to $55 apiece, Uber said, marking about a nearly 13 percent increase over Uber’s share price in its last financing round, led by SoftBank Group Corp. more than a year ago.

The acquisition makes Careem a wholly owned subsidiary of Uber and will keep the Careem brand and app intact, at least initially. Careem co-founders Mudassir Sheikha, Magnus Olsson and Abdulla Elyas are staying on with Careem following the acquisition, the companies said.

However, Careem’s board will be overhauled, with three seats going to Uber representatives and two belonging to Careem. Sheikha, who is Careem’s CEO, and Olsson will have board seats. An Uber spokesman declined to say whom Uber would appoint to the board.

The $3.1 billion cash-and-stock purchase buys out all outside Careem investors, the companies said, and Careem stock will be converted into Uber equity. Careem had raised less than $800 million from investors and as of October had a $2 billion valuation. Its backers include German car maker Daimler, Chinese ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing, Japanese Internet company Rakuten Inc. and Saudi investor Kingdom Holding.

Saudi-based Al Tayyar Travel Group, an early investor with an estimated stake of 20.9 percent, stands to make $475 million in profit from the deal

 

 

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020, the companies said, meaning it will not be reflected in Uber’s first couple of quarterly earnings releases as a public company, although it will likely be disclosed in a public IPO filing. Uber will kick of its IPO next month and is expected to receive a valuation of at least $100 billion.

The agreement is subject to regulatory approval, including by antitrust officials in the countries where Careem operates, which could prevent the deal from moving forward or compel the companies to modify the terms.

The deal is particularly important for Uber, whose ability to be a competitive global ride-hailing player had come into question after it sold its operations in China, Russia and Southeast Asia to local rivals after sustaining heavy losses.

Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi in a statement called the deal with Careem “an important moment for Uber.”

Uber has been eager to reach an agreement before the company begins its “roadshow,” when it will meet with public market investors prior to listing shares on the New York Stock Exchange. The deal enables Uber to claim dominance in a growing region for ride-hailing outside of the United States.

Uber operates in more than 70 countries, but faces strong rivals in Latin America and India, and tough regulations in Europe.

Talks between the companies had dragged on since at least last summer, sources told Reuters, although they did not get serious until the end of the year. The companies had for years battled in a competition for drivers and riders that had required discounts and subsidies and pushed prices artificially low.

Careem over the course of last year grew its business rapidly, including adding a delivery service, and went on to nearly double its valuation, pressuring Uber to increase its bidding price.

Toward the end of last year, Careem was entertaining interest from investors for another financing round when Uber moved aggressively to buy the company outright, sources said.

Careem, founded in 2012, has a larger presence than Uber in the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan, and Turkey, operating in 98 cities there compared with Uber’s roughly 23 locations.

“An Uber-Careem merger underscores the huge potential of car-hailing in the Middle East,” said Sam Blatteis, CEO at the MENA Catalysts, a Middle East public policy advisory and research firm.

The merger also follows the $580 million acquisition of Dubai-based ecommerce company Souq Group by Amazon.com Inc. in 2017, according to a US Securities and Exchange Commission filing, spotlighting the Middle East’s budding technology scene. “It’s the first ‘unicorn’ exit in the Middle East, and it’s representative of things to come out of the Middle East,” said David Chao, co-founder and general partner at venture firm DCM and a Careem investor, referring to start-ups valued at $1 billion or more.

Uber said its revenue last year was $11.3 billion, while its gross bookings from rides were $50 billion. But the company lost a staggering $3.3 billion, excluding gains from the sale of its overseas business units in Russia and Southeast Asia.

Careem does not disclose its earnings.


Moody’s upgrades Egypt’s rating to B2, expects more economic growth

Updated 18 April 2019
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Moody’s upgrades Egypt’s rating to B2, expects more economic growth

  • Moody’s believes Egypt’s large domestic funding base would support its resilience to refinancing shocks
  • The ratings agency expects energy price hikes as part of Egypt’s fuel subsidy reform

CAIRO: Rating agency Moody’s has upgraded Egypt’s sovereign rating, saying ongoing economic reforms will help improve its fiscal position and boost economic growth.
Moody’s upgraded the long-term foreign and local currency issuer ratings of Egypt to B2 from B3. The outlook was changed to stable from positive.
The decision was based on “Moody’s expectation that ongoing fiscal and economic reforms will support a gradual but steady improvement in Egypt’s fiscal metrics and raise real GDP growth,” the agency said in a statement late on Wednesday.
Moody’s also said it believed Egypt’s large domestic funding base would support its resilience to refinancing shocks despite the government’s very high borrowing needs and interest costs.
Moody’s said it expected a steady improvement of Egypt’s fiscal position, “albeit from very weak levels.”
Maintained primary budget surpluses combined with strong nominal GDP growth would help reduce the general government debt/GDP ratio to below 80 percent by the 2021 fiscal year from 92.6 percent in the 2018 fiscal year, it said.
Egypt’s fiscal year runs from July to June.
Moody’s also said it expected energy price hikes as part of Egypt’s fuel subsidy reform, which it believed would be completed in the 2019 fiscal year. This, along with the fiscal reforms implemented in the last few years, would allow the government to maintain the primary budget balance in surplus in the next few years, Moody’s said.
The upgraded rating was expected, but still good news for Egypt, said Allen Sandeep, head of research at Naeem Brokerage.
“It should help its case for new international bond issuances as we move forward,” he said.
Egypt is pushing ahead with tough economic reforms as part of a three-year $12 billion IMF loan deal signed in 2016.
The reforms, aimed at attracting investors who fled during the 2011 uprising, have included new taxes, deep cuts to energy subsidies and a currency devaluation. The reforms have helped the economy recover, but have also put the budgets of tens of millions of Egyptians under strain.