Middle East Uber rival Careem raises $200 million | Industry

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(Reuters) — East ride-hailing company said on Thursday it had secured $200 million in fresh funding from existing investors and that it expects to raise more to finance expansion plans.

Careem, which counts German car maker Daimler and China's largest ride-hailing company DiDi Chuxing among its other backers, was estimated to be worth around $1 billion as of December 2016.

One source close to the deal told Reuters the latest investment, combined with previous fund raising and expansion of the company into new segments and markets, gave the company an estimated valuation of over $2 billion.

Dubai-headquartered Careem, the main regional rival of Uber, said it expected to raise more than $500 million in its latest funding effort to expand into mass transportation, deliveries and payments.

Reuters reported in March that Careem was in early talks to raise as much as $500 million from investors.

“Internet-enabled services are having a profound and positive impact on our region, where the consumer internet opportunity is huge and untapped,” said Careem co-founder and chief executive Mudassir Sheikha in a statement.

Careem, founded in 2012, says it has 30 million registered users in over 120 cities in the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and Pakistan.

The $200 million came from existing investors which includes Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal's Kingdom Holding, Al Tayyar Group, STV and Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten.

Kingdom Holding, which took a 7 percent stake in Careem in 2017, said in a statement its investment in the company was part of its own “strategy to invest in new promising technologies”.

Careem has expanded into new markets this year such as Sudan and started trialing food delivery services after buying a restaurant listing and reservation online platform.

Reuters reported in July Careem was planning to spend up to $150 million to launch its food delivery business following the acquisition of the RoundMenu restaurant platform.

Careem competes head-to-head in many major Middle East cities with San Francisco-headquartered Uber, which plans to go public next year and could be valued at $120 billion according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Uber has faced calls in the Middle East for a boycott after its chief executive said he would not attend a business conference in Saudi Arabia this month over the disappearance of a prominent Saudi journalist in Turkey.

(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Jason Neely)

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