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Ride-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] is in talks to buy Dubai-based rival Careem Networks FZ for about $2 billion to $2.5 billion, media reported citing people familiar with this regard.
No final decisions have been made, and the companies may decide against the transaction, according to media officials.
Uber Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi said at a conference in May that he believed the company would come out on top in India, the Middle East and Africa. “We are going to be, I believe, the winning player in those markets and we’re going to control our own destiny,” he said.
Uber and Careem held preliminary talks in July to combine their Middle Eastern ride-hailing services, hoping to resolve a costly rivalry in the region, Bloomberg had previously reported.
Both Careem and Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Uber, which is on track to go public next year, has been seeking new avenues of growth even as it battles intense competition in its core business of riding hailing.
A deal with Uber could head off a potential initial public offering. Careem had held talks with investors earlier this year to raise $500 million, potentially valuing the firm at about $1.5 billion ahead of a possible listing, people familiar with the matter said in May.
The company has been building services such as food delivery and freight hauling, and, in April, acquired electric bike service JUMP Bikes to offer U.S. passengers an alternative to cars.
SoftBank , which is the majority stakeholder in Uber, has opened up the possibility of combining Uber with other ride-hailing assets the Japanese group owns across Asia. SoftBank has stakes in Singapore-based Grab and India’s Ola.
At the time of the investment, SoftBank said it wants Uber to focus on growing in the United States, Europe, Latin America and Australia – not Asia, which has been among the most costly and competitive regions for the ride-hailing company, a source had told Reuters.
Careem has more than a million drivers and operates in more than 100 cities in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Lebanon, Pakistan, Kuwait, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Turkey, Palestine, Iraq and Sudan, according to its website. The app lets customers book rides on cars, bikes, golf carts, boats and rickshaws as well as schedule deliveries.