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Singapore says Uber may have to unwind merger with Grab

06 July 2018

Earlier on Thursday, CCCS said in a press release that it had provisionally found that the merger between Grab and Uber has led to a "substantial lessening of competition" in the ride-hailing market and proposed to fine both companies.

Uber sold its South-east Asian business to bigger regional rival Grab in March in exchange for a stake in the Singapore-based firm, marking the U.S. firm's second-biggest retreat from an Asian market.

The commission "may require the parties to unwind the transaction unless the aforesaid public consultation confirms that any of the proposed remedies, or any further remedies, are sufficient to address the identified competition concerns, and are implementable in practice", it said in a statement.

To counter this, the CCCS proposed getting Grab to remove exclusivity clauses for all its drivers, undo exclusivity deals with fleet operators, and revert to the pricing algorithm and driver commission rates in force before the acquisition.

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Grab will submit its written representations to CCCS before the deadline and take steps to appeal against the provisional decision, the spokesman said.

On 26 March, the ride-hailing giants announced the merger, which saw Uber taking a 27.5 per cent stake in Grab along with a seat on the latter's board.

Grab also "proactively proposed voluntary commitments.to ensure consumers' and drivers' interests are taken care of, which the CCCS had rejected", the spokesperson said.

CCCS has outlined a set of proposed remedies in relation to the merger and called for members of the public to give their submissions on these remedies by 19 July. CCCS also said remedial measures could include a sale by Grab of its leasing unit.

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Some analysts said unwinding could take different forms.

The CCCS said the firms completed the deal and began the transfer of the acquired assets immediately, despite their own view that the outcome would be irreversible, thus making it practically impossible to restore the status quo pre-merger.

DBS said in a research note on Friday: "Having seen a full cycle of entrants and eventual exits (since 2013 with Uber's entry) of private hailing app players, we believe that a strong escalation of competition and reversion to high incentives and discounts (where participants incur sustained losses) seem unlikely".

Several new players, such as India's Jugnoo and Singapore-based Ryde, have recently entered the ride-hailing market in the city-state.

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"Since Uber had lost the drive and resources to sustain its operations in Singapore, wasn't it a good ending for a white knight to bail Uber (the company, the drivers, the passengers) out from the mess?" said Dr Lee. Indonesia's dominant player Go-Jek has also said it would launch services in Singapore.

Singapore says Uber may have to unwind merger with Grab