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Southeast Asia’s Grab raised $750 million in its largest round to date

The round was led by existing investor SoftBank with participation from new and old investors in the U.S. and China.

Grab CEO Anthony Tan
Grab CEO Anthony Tan
Asa Mathat

In the ride-hail industry’s fight for market share, Southeast Asia is still up for grabs. So it comes as no surprise that Grab, Southeast Asia’s homegrown player, has just raised $750 million in a round led by existing investor SoftBank Capital.

Now that Didi has acquired Uber’s assets in China, Uber has more time and resources to focus on winning in other important regions — and few are more important than India and Southeast Asia. (Didi is also an investor in Grab.)

So for Grab, which claims it has 1.5 million rides booked a day, raising enough money to fend against the looming international and well-resourced threat that is Uber is no small thing.

The company wouldn’t specify which other investors participated in its largest round to date but several sources say Didi, which SoftBank has also invested in, did not put money in this time around.

In part, Didi wanted to avoid ruffling Uber’s feathers so soon after the company acquired its China assets, according to several sources. But the company does expect to give Grab additional money in the future, those sources say.

The Chinese ride-hail company originally participated in a $350 million strategic round that Grab closed in August 2015 shortly before Didi also backed Lyft and India’s Ola in a move that made official an international partnership that was meant to fend against Uber.

Little has come from the international anti-Uber partnership that Didi had a big hand in forging — that is, aside from Lyft launching a cross-booking feature with Grab and Didi. But since Didi acquired Uber China in August, the long-term plan of creating an international network of ride-hail players that shared resources, information and best practices is in question.

At the time of Didi’s acquisition of Uber China, Lyft said they were reevaluating their partnership with the company. As for Ola, since Didi made such a small investment in the company, a source close to Ola said little changed in the company’s day-to-day affairs. It remains unclear what is to come of the companies’ international alliance with Didi, largely because Didi is still working to integrate Uber China into their business and app in the aftermath of the acquisition while continuing to navigate increasingly limiting Chinese regulations.

Though Didi may have vanquished its competitor, Uber is still a threat to Grab and Ola, and raising money is important to fending off its continued challenge. Though the anti-Uber alliance has started to fracture, Didi plans to continue to back Grab, according to several sources. But, sources say, it will opt out of helping Ola because India, like China, is a vast and expensive market forcing both Uber and Ola to engage in a subsidy war.

After China, India may be the most important market for Uber but there are also huge opportunities in Southeast Asia. In Southeast Asia alone, there are 620 million people, severe congestion issues and limitations on personal car ownership. In other words, it’s a market fit for ride-hail.

With the new funding, Grab hopes to expand its marketshare in Indonesia — where Grab is competing against Uber as well as a smaller company called GoJek — while also developing its mobile wallet called GrabPay and continuing to work on its machine learning capabilities in the company’s labs in Beijing, Seattle and Singapore.

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