Japan’s SoftBank Group, already an investor in Asia’s top ride-hailing firms, is now after a multibillion-dollar stake in Uber, Bloomberg reported.
Earlier this week the Japanese tech giant said it would lead a $2.5 billion fundraising round in Grab, a move which valued the startup at more than $5 billion and will help it compete against Uber in Southeast Asia.
SoftBank has also invested in India’s Ola, China’s Didi Chuxing SoftBank and Brazil’s 99.
It is possible SoftBank wants Uber to combine its operations with Grab and Ola the way it did with Didi Chuxing last year.
In August 2016, Uber gave into shareholder pressure and merged its loss-making Chinese business with local rival Didi Chuxing. Earlier this month, Uber also said it will combine its operations with Russian rival Yandex.Taxi.
Such a merger would give SoftBank a significant share of the Asian market.
However, according to the Bloomberg report, talks with Uber “are described as preliminary and one-sided” and the ride-hailing giant is not likely to make any decisions until it hires a new CEO, which could take a few weeks.
Earlier this month it was reported Uber’s shareholders and board may sell some shares to potential investors including SoftBank, as some supporters want to reduce their stake due to the company’s troubles.
Its CEO stepped down following a series of controversies, including allegations of sexual harassment at the workplace, a lawsuit over self-driving car technology, and a software programme used to mislead regulators.
Neither party made any official comment on the matter.
Southeast Asia’s ride-hailing market could grow to $13.1 billion by 2025, up from $2.5 billion in 2015, according to a report by Google and Singapore’s Temasek Holdings.