Friday, June 22, 2018
Martin Hennecke

Uber flagged for new riders
Uber Technologies shareholders and its board, led by early backer Benchmark, have discussed selling shares to Japan's SoftBank Group and other potential investors.

The talks represent a major turning point for the company. It has amassed more than 500 investors who fought to own a piece of the world's most valuable startup. The fact some of the earliest backers now want to reduce their stakes suggests scandals and other troubles this year have taken a toll.

The deal could include an injection of new money into the ride-hailing startup, according to insiders. But it is unclear what valuation those shares would carry or how much may be sold. Any private share sale would need to be approved by San Francisco-based Uber's board.

Former chief executive Travis Kalanick, who remains on the board, did not learn about Benchmark's effort to sell early shares until recently. He has often opposed allowing early shareholders to sell their stakes, though the board allowed occasional exceptions.

Benchmark, it was noted, led an investor revolt against Kalanick.

Yet SoftBank, which recently launched a US$93-billion (HK$723.5 billion) technology fund, is not known to have an investment interest in Uber. In fact, SoftBank has backed Uber's primary rivals in China, Southeast Asia and India.

Some Uber investors would like to see it cut deals with overseas competitors like with Didi Chuxing in China and Yandex NV in Russia.

On that, Grab, a leading ride-hailing startup in Asia, is raising as much as US$2 billion from backers including SoftBank and Didi.


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