SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Regulatory scrutiny could complicate ride-hailing company Grab’s takeover of Uber Technologies’ Southeast Asian business, but there is little the authorities can do to stop Uber from simply exiting the region, lawyers and analysts said.
Days after the deal was announced last week, antitrust agencies in Singapore and Philippines began to review it, with Malaysia saying it would follow suit.
Antitrust lawyers say Singapore-based Grab could try to mollify regulators by offering concessions such as price restrictions and subjecting itself to greater regulations. It could also argue that consumers still have many ride-hailing options to choose from.
“Rather than throwing out the deal, and especially with potential new entrants coming in, I believe that with the right safeguards, with the right commitments, the deal can still go through,” said Gerald Singham, deputy managing partner at law firm Dentons Rodyk.
If the deal falls apart, Uber could depart Singapore and leave Grab as the dominant player regardless, experts said.
Uber is already winding down its regional operations and has asked customers and drivers to transition to Grab’s platform. Five hundred Uber staffers will also move to Grab.
Market share data on the ride-hailing sector is patchy, but mobile data analytics firm App Annie ranks Grab ahead of Uber in all the big economies in Southeast Asia in terms of monthly active users. The exception is Indonesia, where Tencent…