Grab says Uber acquisition not in breach of competition laws as Malaysia watchdog steps up probe

SINGAPORE - Singapore-based Grab Holdings on Thursday (Sept 26) said 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 last March.

Grab's statement came in response to media reports that Malaysia is advancing its anti-monopoly investigation into the Singapore-based 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".

"Grab plays a complementary role in the entire public transportation ecosystem in Malaysia, most often serving the first-mile-last-mile needs of commuters to and from public transit. Today, commuters in Malaysia continue to have the choice of getting from one point to another through public transport, street-hail taxis or more than 30 other licensed e-hailing apps," the spokesman added.

Earlier on Wednesday, media reports noted that Malaysia was ramping up on 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 the commission was taking.

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

In March 2018, Grab purchased Uber's South-east Asia operations for an undisclosed sum, putting an end to speculation about the merger between the two ride-hailing giants. In exchange, Uber took over a 27.5 per cent stake in Grab, and Uber chief executive officer 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 the substantial eroding of competition in the ride-hailing scene. Uber was fined $6.58 million, while Grab was fined $6.42 million.


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

As part of its investigation findings, the watchdog highlighted that Grab increased its prices after the removal of its closest competitor, Uber. The CCCS noted that despite its proposal that Grab maintain its pre-acquisition pricing and driver commissions, effective fares for commuters had risen between 10 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 other smaller players which emerged after Uber's exit remained "insignificant".

This was before Indonesia-based Gojek made its services available to all consumers in Singapore in January 2019, after its trial launch on Nov 29 last year that covered certain districts.