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Business

AFP
November 15, 2017

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Uber comes of age with SoftBank tieup

Uber comes of age with SoftBank tieup

San Francisco: Uber´s tieup with Japanese tech giant SoftBank suggests the ridesharing giant is set to come of age in the business world, but it still faces a long road ahead.

The deal is giving the world´s most valuable startup an additional $1 billion in capital and could allow SoftBank to acquire as much as 14 percent of Uber over time.

While Uber has become a global phenomenon operating in more than 600 cities and dozens of countries, it is trying to move past a series of scandals and missteps that have included executive misconduct, a toxic work atmosphere and potentially unethical competitive practices.

One step toward the future was the hiring of chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi earlier this year, which left founder Travis Kalanick in the background.

But Uber needs to clean up its governance and other practices if it intends to meet its goal of a 2019 stock market debut that will open up the privately held firm to greater scrutiny.

"The SoftBank investment suggests Uber is becoming far more mature, however momentum is against the company at the moment, so there is some risk it will be too little and too late," said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group, who follows Silicon Valley.

Enderle said Uber´s agreement with SoftBank is "a great start, but just that, and the truly hard work is still to be done." Under Kalanick, Uber reached an eye-popping valuation of $68 billion, unprecedented for a private firm. But at the same time it has faced resistance from traditional taxi operators and regulators, and faces a possible ban in cities like London for failing to live up to local rules.

The deal with SoftBank is aimed at getting past the clashes between Kalanick and early investors like Benchmark Capital, which has sued the former CEO. SoftBank is expected to buy up shares from some investors by pumping in as much as $9 billion, in a so-called tender offer to Uber stakeholders.

Rajeev Misra, CEO of SoftBank Investment Advisors, said some details are not yet final. "By no means is our investment decided. We are interested in Uber but the final deal will depend on the tender price and a minimum percentage shareholding for SoftBank," Misra said in a statement.

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