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It’s a hard world after all in Uber’s path to global domination

The ride-hail company has faced vexing challenges in its non-U.S. markets — will India be next?

Uber Taxi App In Madrid Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Remember when Uber was going to take over the world? Me too.

But today, the transportation player — which is valued at close to $70 billion and with lofty ambitions to become one of the only global ride-hailing companies — has seen some major setbacks in that pursuit.

While it might be the only player with such an expansive global footprint, that effort might be far smaller than the company initially set out to make it, due in part to a renewed focus on profitability.

That was evidenced today when Uber said it had ceded control over its Russia operations to rival Yandex.Taxi. The two companies have formed a yet unnamed joint venture that the Russian company has majority control over.

In Russia, it was a strong opponent willing to play the subsidy game that drove the company out, while it was regulatory issues that has stymied it in Europe.

In Denmark, for example, where Uber announced it was leaving in March, it was new regulations that required it to act more like a taxi company, requiring that drivers install things like meters in their cars. The company said it plans to revive its operation in Denmark when laws change.

Over in Spain, where the company had been previously banned in cities across the country, Uber has continued to face protests from taxi drivers as recently as May of this year.

And in France, legal disputes over the use of an Uber X-like service called UberPop was referred to the region’s highest court, the Court of Justice of the European Union. There, earlier this month, a senior adviser said Uber should be treated — and thus regulated — as a taxi service. While it was a non-binding opinion and Uber is waiting for the final decision later this summer, it meant, the adviser said, France should be allowed to charge the company for running an illegal taxi service.

Uber is also continuing that same fight not to be treated like a taxi in Southeast Asia as well — most recently in places like Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand.

The company pulled out of Taiwan for two months after the local transport agency charged Uber $825,873 in penalties for operating illegally. Uber returned in April under the condition that it would partner with local licensed rental car companies. In Hong Kong, five drivers were found guilty for illegally operating car-hailing services, and in Thailand the police have been conducting stings to catch drivers.

Even in places where the company enjoys legal status, it is combating strong home-grown players that, like Uber, continue to grow their war chests of funding. In India, that rival is Ola.

Ola started off the year raising $350 million and has the advantage of knowing the nuances of the Indian market well. While Ola’s expansion has not been without its own road blocks, the company is now in 110 cities across the country.

While sources said pulling out of India wasn’t being considered when Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was still in place, the company’s focus on profitability and eventually an initial public offering may be reason enough to strike another deal that relieves Uber of the increasing costs of operating in India.

There’s a road map for this strategy in Uber’s departure from China, one of its largest markets, last year. In the face of a seemingly neverending subsidy war, Uber sold its operations to its equally pugnacious rival Didi Chuxing and got a stake in the company for its troubles.

India and China are similar markets in terms of both size and the cost of undercutting prices to maintain or grow demand. Expansion within the region on its own would require significant capital.

Were Uber to pull back again, it would also leave the company to focus on regions where it’s having more success, such as Latin America and the Middle East. In Latin America, Uber has seen strong traction in Mexico, which became Uber’s third-largest market in 2015, as well as in Brazil, which Uber previously told Recode was its fastest-growing market in the region.

The company was also enjoying exponential growth in places like Cairo, Egypt, although the government is now asking Uber for access to customer data.

This article originally appeared on

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