MANILA -- The Philippine antitrust authority is examining a plan by ride-sharing rivals Grab and Uber Technologies to integrate their Southeast Asian operations, saying the deal creates a "virtual monopoly."
"The Grab-Uber acquisition is likely to have a far-reaching impact on the riding public and the transportation services," the Philippine Competition Commission said Monday. "As such, the PCC is looking at the deal closely with the end view of potentially reviewing it for competition concerns."
Grab intends to buy Uber's ride-sharing and food-delivery businesses in Southeast Asia, the Singapore-based company said March 26, paying its American rival with a 27.5% stake in Grab.
Pending a formal notification from both companies, the commission has yet to determine whether the transaction reaches the 2 billion peso ($38.3 million) threshold that, along with other criteria, automatically triggers a review. But the commission said it also could initiate scrutiny of the deal on its own.
"PCC recognizes that the exit of Uber in the Philippines will [provide Grab a] virtual monopoly in the ride-sharing market until the new players come into operation," the commission said.
A review by the commission would entail analyzing whether the deal appears likely to cause an increase in prices, a deterioration in ride-sharing services, a decrease in options for passengers or an inability for new players to compete fairly.
Grab told Nikkei that "this is a normal regulatory step in a deal of this size as part of Grab's overall strategy to cooperate with interested regulators."
"Grab has always been customer-first, and this will not change after the acquisition," the company said. "This deal is good for consumers."
Other antitrust watchdogs are also looking at the acquisition. The competition commission in Malaysia, where Grab originated, said it would monitor how the deal pans out, Reuters reported Monday. The Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore said last week it has begun an investigation of the deal, which may violate the city-state's antitrust rules.
The latest remarks from regulators could complicate the plans for Uber and Grab to integrate operations by April 8.
The Philippine commission said it would meet Monday with Uber and Grab representatives to determine whether the transaction requires that regulators be notified.
"If the transaction is notifiable, Grab and Uber are not allowed to consummate the deal without PCC approval," the watchdog said.
Meanwhile, the commission urges the parties to "allow a voluntary review to take its course before consummating to minimize the need to unscramble the deal if found to have anti-competition concerns."