VENTURE FUNDS

Grab takes in US$1.46b more to feed Super App ambition in SEA

Latest investment from SoftBank fund; other recent investors include Toyota, Hyundai, Microsoft and Ping An Capital

Singapore

RIDE-HAILING firm Grab has secured US$1.46 billion of fresh funding from the SoftBank Vision Fund, bringing the total investment in its latest ongoing financing round to over US$4.5 billion.

Other investors in this Series H round include Toyota Motor Corporation, Oppenheimer Funds, Hyundai Motor Group, Booking Holdings, Microsoft Corporation, Ping An Capital and Yamaha Motor.

Grab's president Ming Maa noted in a press statement that there has been "strong interest" both in terms of capital invested and the quality of strategic partners seeking to support the company's development.

"We continue to receive new investor interest, and look forward to welcoming more global industry leaders as partners in 2019," added Mr Maa.

Grab intends to use the funds to advance its Super App vision in South-east Asia, with the aim of bringing more services and greater convenience to its users, the company said on Wednesday.

Grab is now looking to roll out services including digital healthcare in partnership with Ping An Good Doctor, an insurance marketplace in partnership with ZhongAn International, hotel bookings in partnership with Booking Holdings, and on-demand videos in partnership with streaming service HOOQ. HOOQ is a joint venture between Singtel, Warner Bros and Sony Pictures.

In particular, the company plans to invest a significant portion of its proceeds in Indonesia, which is also home to rival firm Gojek.

According to Grab, its Indonesian business is expanding rapidly, with revenue more than doubling in 2018. It claims to own 60 per cent of the two-wheel market and 70 per cent of the four-wheel market there.

The company will use the fresh capital to boost the expansion of GrabFood and GrabExpress, and roll out new verticals in the country. GrabFood now operates in 178 Indonesian cities, up from 13 at the start of last year. Delivery volumes grew almost 10 times in 2018.

Grab's co-founder Tan Hooi Ling said at a briefing on Wednesday that there are pockets of profitability in certain markets for certain verticals - such as transport and food - but on the whole, the group is still in the red.

As to when its Super App model will become profitable, Ms Tan said the company is still in "heavy investment mode" so the turning point will not come anytime soon. But she maintained that there are revenue models for each vertical.

Its transport business almost doubled revenue from March 2018 to December 2018, and revenue from the food delivery arm grew 45 times within the same period, according to the press statement.

But the firm is not targeting an initial public offering anytime soon because it is in a healthy funding position and is still investing in many growth areas, said Ms Tan.

In Singapore, Grab will expand its carpooling service GrabShare to offer a range of larger vehicles - hence, more riders in one carpool - in order to cater to more price-sensitive users.

It will also roll out a service called Kitchen sometime this year. The service will target merchants who wish to expand but do not have sufficient capital to do so. Kitchen, which provides centralised spaces for these merchants at an affordable cost, is already available in Indonesia.

Grab said monthly orders for food is growing at 25 per cent on average, and it aims to become the number one player in Singapore by the first half of 2019.

Ms Tan told BT that the company pivoted to the Super App model because it saw a bigger opportunity in creating a single powerful app as compared to sticking to one business vertical. In South-east Asia, research has shown that people use only about five apps on a daily basis despite having many needs, she said. And by creating a single platform that aggregates a range of services, corporations can easily partner Grab to provide new offerings through the platform.

- Additional reporting by Rachel Mui