Uber Technologies Inc. is selling its China operations to fierce rival Didi Chuxing, ending an expensive price war and freeing it up to focus on other markets and possibly an initial public offering.
The truce brings to an end a bruising battle between the two companies for leadership in China’s fast-growing ride-hailing market. Uber has already lost $2 billion in China in two years there, people familiar with the matter have said, prompting investors to pressure the company to cut a deal. As part of the arrangement, Didi will invest $1 billion in Uber’s global company, people familiar with the matter said.
Uber has said that it’s profitable in the U.S. and Canada, but losses in developing markets have undercut that hard-fought progress. The huge losses in China have been one of the main sticking points holding up Uber’s potential IPO, according to people familiar with the matter.
“The biggest existential threat to Uber over the last two months was that in China they were losing capital in a way that potentially threatened the rest of their worldwide operations,” said Arun Sundararajan, a New York University professor. “The fact is that in the short term it may seen as a loss, but in the long run it’s a good move. Now they can focus on the rest of the world.”
With China settled, Uber can turn to other countries where it’s fighting for market share, such as Grab in Southeast Asia, Ola in India and Lyft Inc. in the U.S.
Didi is buying Uber’s brand, business and data in the country, the Chinese company said in a statement. Uber Technologies and Uber China’s other shareholders, including search giant Baidu Inc., will receive a 20 percent economic stake in the combined company. Didi founder Cheng Wei and Uber Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick will join each other’s boards.
“Didi Chuxing and Uber have learned a great deal from each other over the past two years,” said Cheng, who is also CEO, in the statement. “This agreement with Uber will set the mobile transportation industry on a healthier, more sustainable path of growth at a higher level.”
Didi’s valuation after the deal will be $35 billion, said people familiar with the matter, asking not to be named because the details aren’t public. Uber was last valued at almost $68 billion and the arrangement has “removed the big roadblock for an Uber IPO,” Sundararajan said. “Losing money in China would’ve given many pre-IPO investor pause.”
Last year, China’s ride-hailing leaders Didi and Kuaidi joined forces, creating a homegrown juggernaut to fight off Uber. The merged company Didi Chuxing brought together backers Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd., the country’s most valuable internet businesses. Apple Inc. joined in this year with a $1 billion investment in Didi, in a round that valued the company at about $28 billion. The Chinese government passed a new rule last week that legalized ride-hailing services, paving the way for further expansion of these businesses.
Uber’s investors had been clamoring for the company to sell off its China assets and focus on more promising opportunities.
“As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that being successful is about listening to your head as well as following your heart,” Kalanick wrote in a blog post obtained by Bloomberg before publication. “I have no doubt that Uber China and Didi Chuxing will be stronger together.”
The deal is subject to government approval. While the combination of the top two players in a market would often raise regulatory scrutiny, officials will have to determine the range of competition. “The ministry of commerce has to define the size of the market and see if the car-hailing business Didi and Uber are offering can be replaced by similar services,” said Deng Zhisong, senior partner at Beijing-based law firm Dentons. “If you count taxi services and public transportation, the car-hailing sector will not have a market share that significant.”
The purchase of Uber’s China business may complicate Didi’s alliance with other ride-hailing startups around the world. Didi had agreed to work with Lyft, Ola and Grab to create a global force to take on Uber. Grab CEO Anthony Tan said in a statement on Monday that the impending deal is a victory for Didi and underscores how the ride-hailing business favors domestic players.
In China, Uber ventured where few U.S. technology companies have succeeded. In 2005, Yahoo! Inc. made a similar deal, selling its businesses in China to Alibaba, along with a $1 billion investment — one of the Silicon Valley company’s best bets.
“China is such a tough market, in terms of regulation, competition and culture; they faced challenges on so many fronts,” said Li Yujie, an analyst at RHB Research Institute Sdn in Hong Kong. “Cooperating with rather than fighting Didi might not be such a bad idea.”
While Uber will walk away from operations in China, it is taking a significant stake in the largest player there. By shedding its massive losses in China, the move could help Uber clear the path for an eventual initial public offering.
“Uber and Didi Chuxing are investing billions of dollars in China, and both companies have yet to turn a profit there,” Kalanick wrote in the blog post. “Getting to profitability is the only way to build a sustainable business that can best serve Chinese riders, drivers and cities over the long term.”
Chinese Smartphone Giant Xiaomi Shares Gains Over 6 Percent After U.S. Agrees to Remove it From Blacklist
The U.S. has agreed to remove Xiaomi from a blacklist that would have barred Americans from investing in the Chinese smartphone maker.
Shares of Chinese tech giant Xiaomi rallied as much as 6.5 percent after the news, before paring some gains.
In January, the administration under former President Donald Trump designated Xiaomi as one of several “Communist Chinese military companies” or CCMC.
This meant the world’s third-largest smartphone maker was subject to a November executive order restricting American investors from buying shares or related securities of any companies given this designation by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).
Xiaomi brought a legal challenge against the U.S. Department of Defense.
In March, a U.S. court granted Xiaomi a preliminary injunction against the Trump-era order, saying the company would “suffer irreparable harm in the form of serious reputational and unrecoverable economic injuries.”
And on Tuesday, the DOD agreed that a “final order vacating” Xiaomi’s designation as a CCMC “would be appropriate,” according to a court filing.
Xiaomi and the DOD will “negotiate over the specific terms of the order” and provide the court with a “joint proposed order” on or before May 20.
Airtel Africa Grows Revenue by 14.2 Percent to $3,908m in Q1 2021
Airtel Africa Plc, a leading telecommunications company in Africa, grew its revenue by 14.2 percent to $3,908 million in the first quarter (Q1) of 2021, the company stated in its just-released financial statements.
The company reported growth across all its regions with East Africa leading with 23.5 percent growth. Nigeria followed with 21.9 percent growth while Francophone Africa accounted for 10 percent growth. See Airtel Africal financial highlights below.
Airtel Africa Financial Highlights
Reported revenue grew by 14.2% to $3,908m, with Q4’21 reported revenue growth of 15.4%.
Constant currency underlying revenue growth was 19.4%, with Q4’21 growth of 21.7%. Growth was recorded across all regions: Nigeria up 21.9%, East Africa up 23.5% and Francophone Africa up 10%; and across key services, with revenues for voice up 11.0%, data up 31.2% and mobile money up 35.5%.
Underlying EBITDA was $1,792m, up 18.3% in reported currency, and growing 25.2% in constant currency.
Underlying EBITDA margin was 46.1%, adding 181 basis points(210 basis points higher in constant currency). Underlying EBITDA margin for Q4’21 was 47.7%, an increase of 389 basis points in constant currency.
Operating profit increased 24.2% to $1,119m in reported currency, and by 32.8% in constant currency.
Free cash flow was $647m, up 42.8% on the prior year.
Basic EPS was 9.0 cents, down 12.6%, largely due to prior year exceptional items and a one-off derivative gain. Excluding these, basic restated EPS rose 44.5%. EPS before exceptional items was 8.2 cents.
Our customer base grew by 6.9% to 118.2 million, with increased penetration across mobile data (customer base up 14.5%) and mobile money services (customer base up 18.5%). The recent slowdown in customer base growth has been due to new SIM registration regulationsin Nigeria.
The Board has recommended a final dividend of 2.5 cents per share, making the total dividend for FY21 4.0 cents per share.
Commenting on the company’s performance, Raghunath Mandava, chief executive officer, said “In these challenging timesI want to say a huge thank you to all our employees, our business partners, and governments and regulators who have supported us, and in turn facilitated our continued support to the economies and communities we serve.
“Our performance has been strong, with reported growth of 13.6% in underlying revenue and 18.3% in underlying EBITDA, and constant currency growth of 19.4% and 25.2% respectively. Contributions to this growth came across all regions, with particular improvement in Francophone Africa, and across all our major services, with mobile money, data and voice each posting double-digit revenue growth.
“Our customer base also grew strongly for most of the year with new customer registration requirements in Nigeria stemming our onboarding of new customers in the final quarter, and these restrictions were lifted in second half of April.
“In line with our strategy of unlocking value in our mobile money business, we will soon welcome two new minority investors (The Rise Fund and Mastercard) in agreed transactions which value this part of our business at $2.65bn, as well as bringing $300m into the Group. We have also agreed to sell more of our tower portfolio, yielding yet more cash for the business.
“The Covid pandemic had eased during the course of the year, however, more recently we have seen a surge in cases. So far this has had no adverse impact on the business, though we will continue to monitor the situation closely.
“In these times, our purpose of transforming lives has never been more critical. It has always meant more than simply providing mobile and financial services; it is about our drive to create a sustainable future. To that end, this year the leadership team has worked to create our sustainability framework, outlining the role we can play and the focus areas where we can make the biggest difference for each of our business, our people, our community, and our environment.
“We will report back with our goals later this year and deliver our first sustainability report in 2022. The combination of bringing connectivity to underpenetrated mobile markets and improving financial inclusion through banking the unbanked, across our territories of operation, together provide us with a sizeable runway of sustainable profitable growth potential, and one we remain very confident of delivering.”
Facebook Opens Accelerator Programme for Nigeria, Others
Social media giant, Facebook, has started receiving applications for its Accelerator Programme for this year.
It said it is, therefore, inviting community leaders from Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya to apply for the 2021 Facebook Community Accelerator Programme, a programme that offers participants training, mentorship and up to $50,000 in funds to invest in an initiative that extends their community’s positive impact.
Its Partner Management Lead, Middle East and Africa Community Partnerships, Kiran Yoliswa, said Facebook communities and their leaders are helping to resolve social challenges, sharing knowledge and information, while connecting with others that share their interests or passion for a cause.
“We’ve seen so many incredible communities from across South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria using our platform to drive change and provide support and encouragement for thousands of people, we’re excited to offer their Facebook Community leaders this program to help amplify their impact even more,” Yoliswa said, that the aim of the programme is to help leaders of Facebook communities to harness the power of their community to turn ideas into action. The selected leaders will spend five months learning from experts, coaches and a customised curriculum so they can strengthen their community.
Lessons include community identity foundations, leading action-oriented programmes and sustainability. Participants will also receive early access to new Facebook products aimed at helping communities better manage and activate their members.
Participants will identify an important initiative that will create a positive impact on the broader world and develop a plan to mobilise their community around their goal. Initiatives will be shared with potential partners, mentors and a panel of judges for the chance to be awarded funding and receive public recognition.
Participants will then spend three months executing their initiatives. They will collaborate with advocates and leaders in the community space and work with the Facebook team to bring their ideas to life.
Yoliswa said the programme is open to communities that have a presence in Facebook Groups with leaders who are 18 years or older. Communities must have existed for over one year and must have a minimum size of 1,000 members. Applications open today, May 4 – 31, 2021.
The Community Accelerator is part of our Facebook Community Leadership Programme, a global initiative that invests in people building communities.
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