Grab says it has cooperated fully with KL watchdog

Singapore-based Grab Holdings said yesterday that it has "fully cooperated" with the Malaysia Competition Commission (MyCC) in its request for information and is not aware of any breach of competition laws since its acquisition of Uber in March last year.

Grab's statement came in response to media reports that Malaysia is advancing its anti-monopoly investigation into the ride-hailing and payments company.

A Grab spokesman said the company proceeded with the Uber acquisition "in the good faith belief that the acquisition will create more efficiencies and benefits for the public in the e-hailing sector".

The spokesman said Grab plays a "complementary role" in Malaysia's transport system. Commuters there can choose to travel through public transport modes, street-hail taxis or more than 30 other licensed e-hailing apps, he noted.

On Wednesday, media reports noted that Malaysia was ramping up the probe into the ride-hailing start-up, as part of a broader government push to bring greater competition to its economy.

MyCC chief executive Iskandar Ismail broke the news on the probe last week, though he declined to elaborate on specific steps that the commission was taking.

The investigation comes amid multiple complaints from last year accusing Grab of monopolistic practices after it bought Uber Technologies' South-east Asian operations.

In March last year, Grab purchased Uber's South-east Asian operations for an undisclosed sum, putting an end to speculation about a merger between the two ride-hailing giants. In exchange, Uber took over a 27.5 per cent stake in Grab, and Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi joined Grab's board.

Six months after their merger, Singapore's competition watchdog slapped fines of $13 million on Grab and Uber, citing that the deal had led to substantial eroding of competition in the ride-hailing scene. Uber was fined $6.58 million, while Grab was fined $6.42 million.

The Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore said the penalties were imposed to "deter completed, irreversible mergers that harm competition", among other things.

The watchdog highlighted that Grab increased its prices after the removal of its closest competitor, Uber. It noted that despite its proposal that Grab maintain its pre-acquisition pricing and driver commissions, effective fares for commuters had risen between 10 per cent and 15 per cent after the deal.

The commission also stated then that Grab had an 80 per cent share of the ride-hailing market and that the market share of smaller players which emerged after Uber's exit remained "insignificant".

This was before Indonesia-based Gojek made its services available in Singapore in January, after its trial launch on Nov 29 last year which covered only selected districts.