Toyota to invest RM4 bil in Grab, gets seat on board

A young man walks past a Grab advertisement in Singapore

The deal comes as the auto industry faces a spike in the need for technological prowess with the advent of features such as autonomous driving, while app makers offer passengers the option to forgo vehicle purchases by connecting them with drivers. Grab said it plans to work with its new investor "to create a more efficient transport network that will ease traffic congestion in Southeast Asia's megacities" and help its drivers increase their income. The carmaker first invested an undisclosed amount in Grab in August past year, after it invested in US-based Uber in 2016 in a partnership for a financing programme that allowed Uber drivers to lease vehicles from Toyota and drive for Uber to cover the payments.

When asked about other investors in this round, a Grab spokesman told The Business Times: "Toyota will be one of our lead investors for this round".

The two companies already had a relationship: Toyota's trading arm invested an undisclosed amount in Grab past year.

It is also the latest collaboration between a global vehicle maker and a technology firm as ride-hailing companies dominate the fast-growing field of mobility services, raising the risk of a future where auto ownership declines in favour of such services.

Toyota is investing as a lead investor in Grab's ongoing financing round, Grab said in a statement on Wednesday (June 13). It raised $2.5 billion in its last round in July, resulting in a reported value of $6 billion. Six-year-old Grab faces fierce competition from Indonesian rival Go-Jek, which is expanding ride-hailing and other services in Southeast Asia.

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A man walks past a Grab office in Singapore March 26, 2018.

A Toyota executive will be appointed to Grab's board and another Toyota representative is being tapped to be an executive officer at Grab, the company said.

Grab added that the investment will allow Grab to further expand its range of online-to-offline services, such as GrabFood and GrabPay, deeper into the region.

Grab now claims over 100 million downloads of its app across eight countries in Asia, including Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and more. In addition, collaborations in driving-data-based automotive insurance, financial services for Grab drivers and maintenance services are also contemplated under the new partnership. Since then, Grab has boosted its grip on Southeast Asia by buying Uber's business in the region. In 2016, General Motors invested $500 million in Lyft, Volkswagen pumped $300 million into Gett, and Honda invested an undisclosed amount in Grab.

Earlier this year, Uber exchanged its Southeast Asian operations for 27.5% of Singapore-headquartered grab, ending a battle between the two for regional dominance.

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