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Uber chief hints at closer links with Middle East’s Careem

Talks between the two are said to be ongoing, but a new ownership structure and a valuation has yet to be agreed
Saudi investors are represented on both sides of the merger discussions

LONDON: Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO of Uber, said that Careem, its big rival in the ride-hailing business in the Middle East, was a “great company” and hinted that there could be closer links between the pair.
Speaking on the sidelines of an event organized by Bloomberg and Misk, the Saudi Arabian philanthropic organization, the Uber boss told Arab News: “Careem is a great company, a great competitor, and who knows, they may become more than that sometime in the future.” He declined to elaborate.
An Uber spokesperson also declined to comment further when subsequently contacted.
Speculation has swirled for some time that Uber, which has rationalized some businesses in Asia, wants to take over Careem, the Dubai-based firm that is the market leader in the online ride hailing business in the Middle East.
Talks between the two are said to be ongoing, but a new ownership structure and a valuation has yet to be agreed. Khosrowshahi said in May that he believed Uber would come out on top in India, the Middle East and Africa.
Saudi investors are represented on both sides of the merger discussions, with the Public Investment Fund both a direct shareholder via its $3.5 billion injection in 2016 and indirectly through its investment in the Vision Fund, while other investors from the Kingdom have backed Careem.
Khosrowshahi’s comments were made during a recent Bloomberg gathering in New York.
Uber announced at the event that it had joined forces with another rival, Lyft, the fastest growing ride-share company in North America, and motor giant Ford in a new data platform, SharedStreets, which aims to make urban transport safer, more efficient, and less environmentally damaging.
“The data sets pledged by the companies will provide the public and private sectors with new tools to manage curb space in order to reduce congestion and emissions that cause climate change; improve the efficiency of city streets by making it easier for everyone to get around; and save lives by preventing traffic crashes,” the three companies said in a joint statement.
SharedStreets is backed by a consortium consisting of the National Association of City Transportation Officials, the Open Transport Partnership and Bloomberg Philanthropies.
“With this model, city leaders can understand where for-hire vehicle trips are in the greatest demand, so that they can reduce congestion, make our curbsides more innovative and efficient and better serve everyone on foot, on a bike or behind the wheel,” they said.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for business and government to work together to rethink transportation,” said Jim Hackett, president and chief executive of Ford Motor Company. “Collaborating through initiatives such as SharedStreets will enable us to use vehicles, road systems and data together to create a new roadmap for mobility,” he added.
Khosrowshahi said: “The private and public sectors need to come together and collaborate on ways to create smarter, safer and more efficient transportation systems.”
Michael Bloomberg said: “Ride-share and auto companies have been gathering an enormous amount of data on transportation and traffic. Now, cities will be able use it to find new ways to manage congestion, reduce carbon emissions, prevent traffic crashes, and prepare for the arrival of autonomous vehicles.”

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