Ola investor SoftBank may buy stake in Uber

By Shruti Jain

  • 15 Jul 2017
Credit: Reuters

Cab-hailing firm Uber Technologies Inc.’s shareholders and board have discussed selling a stake to SoftBank Group Corp and other potential investors, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The talks were led by venture capital firm Benchmark, an early investor in San Francisco-based Uber, the report said. It added that a deal could involve fresh capital infusion into the company.

The report also cited a person close to SoftBank as saying that the Japanese telecom and Internet conglomerate had no plans to buy a stake in Uber.

If any such deal goes through, it could have implications for India. For, SoftBank has a significant stake in Ola, which competes against Uber in India. Ola had secured Rs 1,675 crore ($260 million) in fresh funding from SoftBank in April this year.

SoftBank, which had launched a $93 billion technology fund recently, has also backed Uber’s Chinese rival Didi Chuxing. It is also reported to be planning to invest in Grab, a cab-hailing firm in Southeast Asia.

Uber, the world’s most-valued technology startup, sees India as a vital market after it sold its Chinese operations to Didi Chuxing last year following a fierce battle. The cab-aggregator had infused Rs 51.64 crore (about $7.9 million) into its Indian arms in May.

In fact, the taxi-hailing company has committed to India a big chunk of the $3.5 billion it secured from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund last year. The Saudi Arabian fund has separately also invested in SoftBank’s technology fund.

The Bloomberg report didn’t say what size stake Uber shareholders planned to sell or at what valuation. Uber was valued at $69 billion when it last raised funding. If SoftBank acquires a majority stake in Uber, it could face anti-competition concerns in India considering the Japanese company’s stake in Ola.

According to the report, Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick, who quit as the CEO last month but remains on the board, didn’t know about Benchmark’s intention of selling shares until recently.

Kalanick’s resignation came after US Attorney General Eric Holder probed the company’s culture and practices following allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying.

Uber has also been in a legal tangle with Waymo, Google’s self-driving car unit, over intellectual property theft. Waymo has accused Uber of stealing trade secrets and infringing on patents of its self-driving program.

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