Grab, the Singapore ride-hailing startup, is reportedly in talks to sell a stake in its Thai business to Central Group, the largest retailer in Thailand.
Reuters, citing people familiar with the matter, reported the move comes as Grab is facing more competition from Go-Jek, the Indonesian ride-hailing company, and as it gears up to invest $500 million to branch into new countries, including Thailand and others. Sources told Reuters that if a deal is reached with Central Group, it will expand the partnership beyond food delivery into digital payments and eCommerce. “There’s a natural synergy with Central,” said one source.
The report noted that Grab wants to do business with JD Central, which is an eCommerce joint venture between Central and JD.com. The size of the stake sale and the transaction price have yet to be determined, and the talks have reportedly been going on for some time now.
News of the talks comes at the same time that Grab and Uber were slapped with fines and restrictions after regulators concluded the merger between the two has resulted in higher prices. Reuters, citing the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore, reported the combined $9.5 million in fines was small compared to the companies’ valuations; it, along with other measures, marks the largest actions against the two companies since they announced their deal in March.
In the deal, Uber sold its Southeast Asian unit to Grab and got 27.5 percent of the company as a result. The Singapore regulator said Grab drivers have to be able to work for anyone, and that any exclusivity deals with taxi fleets must be canceled. Meanwhile, Uber has to sell its car rental business to a rival if it makes a reasonable offer, and can’t sell the vehicles to Grab unless it gets approval by regulators. Reuters reported that the Uber unit known as Lion City had 14,000 vehicles as of December.