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Interview

Grab plans 6 tech investments with fresh $2bn funding

Ride-hailer speeds up regional expansion in pressure to archrival Go-Jek

Grab and Go-jek, two wheels  may also stem from the change in Indonesia's transportation and logistics scene.

SINGAPORE -- Ride-hailing operator Grab plans to raise another $2 billion from SoftBank Group and other investors by the end of this year, hoping to use those funds to make at least six acquisitions or investments in tech companies, President Ming Maa told the Nikkei Asian Review in an interview on Monday, adding more pressure on its rival, Go-Jek.

Maa said Grab will use most of the $2 billion to bring mobile payments and other services to the competitive Indonesian market, Go-Jek's home base. Both companies are in a race to build out their digital ecosystems.

"We are looking at ... technology businesses [that] I think will provide a significant value to the platform that we have developed," the president said. "So you can think of anything that is related to [mobile] payments, financial services, food delivery and other services."

He did not say how much Grab will deploy on acquisitions and how much on investments. Grab has bought some companies in recent years such as Indonesia's payment network startup Kudo in 2017.

Grab said Indonesia offers "the biggest opportunities" for its financial services due to the large under-banked population.

Grab President Ming Maa, seen here in a January 2018 photo, considers Indonesia as the most promising market for its financial services. (Photo by Mamoru Yago)

"We are on track to being four times larger than any [competitors] there by the end of the year," Maa said.

Grab is confidently announcing its fundraising plans even as the shares of Lyft fall below its IPO price last week after listing on March 29, suggesting that investors remain confident in Southeast Asia's rapidly growing digital economy.

Grab has raised $4.5 billion since last year, when the company received investments from global companies like Toyota Motor and Microsoft.

Over the past few years, SoftBank Group has put billions of dollars into the provider of Southeast Asia's super app. Maa said SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son recently told Grab that his investment fund would provide "unlimited support" to the company.

Grab declined to comment on who else other than SoftBank it would approach for funds.

Grab operates in eight Southeast Asian countries: Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia. Go-Jek, on the other hand, started regional expansion last year and now operates in Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand.

Southeast Asia's ride-hailing industry had been a three-way race that also included Uber Technologies of the U.S. Since Grab acquired Uber's regional operations early last year, the Singapore company has rushed to add nontransport services such as food deliveries and mobile payments to transform itself into a super app that consumers can turn to for a variety of services. Go-Jek also aims to be a regional super app.

According to CB Insights, Grab is valued at $11 billion, making it Southeast Asia's largest unicorn, while Go-Jek is worth $10 billion with backing from investors including Google and Tencent Holdings.

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