Uber launches Asia-Pacific hub in Singapore, no plans to restart services in South-east Asia

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SINGAPORE - Just a little over a year after it announced its exit from Singapore and the South-east Asian market, Uber now says it is in the Republic to stay.

The American ride-hailing giant officially launched its Asia-Pacific hub here on Tuesday (April 2), occupying about 2,000 sq m at Frasers Tower, in Cecil Street, overlooking the Central Business District.

The new office, which is headed by Uber's international chief business officer Brooks Entwistle, oversees the firm's operations in nine countries across the region, including Australia, Bangladesh and Japan.

While there are local teams on the ground in these countries, Uber is maintaining its regional hub in Singapore as it is an "amazing hub for talent", said the firm's Asia-Pacific senior director for policy and communications Amy Kunrojpanya.

There are currently 165 people employed at the office - working in areas such as marketing, strategy and planning, as well as product support - with plans to hire more.

As of Tuesday, the Uber website lists 17 job openings for its Singapore office.

However, it has no plans to relaunch any of its services in Singapore or the rest of South-east Asia.

In March last year, Uber announced that its South-east Asian business would be acquired by Grab, in exchange for the American ride-hailing giant getting a 27.5 per cent stake in Grab and a seat on the Singapore-based firm's board.

"We feel really good about the business decision behind that," Ms Kunrojpanya told The Straits Times, describing Singapore as a "non-operational market" for the American firm.

"We are the single largest shareholder in the largest mobility player in the region, and we are invested in their success."

While Uber no longer operates in Singapore, she noted that the firm's experience here has influenced how it does business elsewhere, such as its decision to partner taxi companies in countries like Japan.

This is in line with the longer-term strategy and collaborative approach taken by chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi, who succeeded Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick in 2017 following a series of scandals involving the company.

The American firm launched its taxi-booking service UberTaxi in Singapore in 2014, and in late 2017 announced a partnership with local taxi giant ComfortDelGro, which was later dissolved following the merger with Grab.

Uber, which is reported to be valued at US$120 billion (S$162.7 billion), is said to be eyeing a public listing in the first half of this year.

However, Ms Kunrojpanya declined to comment on whether Uber would follow in American ride-hailing rival Lyft's footsteps in launching an initial public offering (IPO).

Separately, ST reported on Tuesday that the $6.58 million fine imposed on Uber following its merger with Grab last year has been suspended, pending Uber's appeal against the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore's ruling that the deal was anti-competitive.

Source; Straits Times, 2 Apr 2019