Japan's SoftBank Group Corp. and a group of investors, including investment firms Dragoneer Investment Group and General Atlantic, are reportedly willing to spend more than $6 billion for a stake in ride-hailing company Uber that would value the company at $48 billion – 30 percent lower than the startup's valuation of $69 billion during its last fundraising round – according to sources speaking with Bloomberg.
According to Bloomberg, the investment from SoftBank has been a top priority for new Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Khosrowshahi reportedly sees the deal as a chance to "close rifts and land a powerful new ally." (See also: Softbank to Announce It Raised $95B for Global Tech Fund.)
The news of SoftBank looking for a discount comes less than a week after it was revealed that Uber concealed a breach that affected 57 million users. The firm has admitted it paid hackers to keep it secret from regulators and victims. This is just the latest of the numerous scandals that have plagued Uber this year. The PR crisis ultimately led to the resignation of founder Travis Kalanick as CEO and the appointment of Khosrowshahi. (See also: Uber Paid Hackers to Keep Massive Breach a Secret)
A multi-billion-dollar position in the leading U.S. ride-hailing app would work to further confuse the mix of alliances SoftBank has inked recently. The tech giant has already invested in three of the largest Asian ride-hailing companies, including Singapore’s GrabTaxi Holdings Pte., India’s Ola and China’s Didi Chixung Technology Co.
The recent news may suggest that the Tokyo-based giant hopes Uber will merge its operations with Grab and Ola, similar to what it did last year with Didi and earlier this year with Russian rival Yandex.Taxi. Such an alliance would offer SoftBank a significant share of the Southeast Asian ride-hailing market, expected to mushroom to $13.1 billion by 2025, according to a report by Alphabet Inc. (GOOG) and Temasek Holdings.
However, CEO Khosrowshahi ruled out the possibility of merging with regional competitors in Southeast Asia during the New York Times DealBook conference held earlier this month. “The economics of that market are not what we want them to be,” he said, according to Reuters. “I think it’s over-capitalized at this point. We’re going in, and we’re leaning forward. But I‘m not optimistic that market is going to be profitable any time soon.” (See also: How Will Travis Kalanick's Exit Affect an Uber IPO?)