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Grab-Uber deal still hangs

Antitrust body to review impact of deal on competition in ride-hailing sector
/ 05:30 AM April 04, 2018

The competition watchdog has decided to review Grab’s takeover of its main rival here in the country, but it remains unclear if it could still prevent Uber from stopping operations next week.

The Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) said on Tuesday that it would review the Grab-Uber deal, hoping to buy more time by convincing the popular ride-hailing firms to delay their transaction.

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This developed days after Grab said it would acquire Uber’s operations in Southeast Asia, calling it the biggest acquisition by a Southeast Asian internet company. Uber is already scheduled to stop operations on April 8.

PCC would be reviewing the deal even after the parties involved said that the transaction was not notifiable under current PCC rules. Technically, Uber and Grab are already allowed to push through with their deal.

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However, the law also allows PCC to review a non-notifiable deal if the antitrust body finds a “reasonable basis” to do so, according to Competition Chair Arsenio Balisacan.

Notifiable transactions are M&As that meet certain requirements deemed to be potentially anticompetitive in the market. Such deal is not allowed to be acted upon until PCC finishes its review of the notifiable M&A.

Depending on how the companies would cooperate, the review, which would see if the acquisition is anticompetition, could take months.

The first phase of the review takes at most 75 days, Balisacan said.

However, if there would be “serious gaps in our analysis because of a lack of information,” the review could extend for another 120 days at most, he added.

What would happen in the meantime is uncertain. PCC officials would meet with Grab and Uber officials on Thursday to discuss interim measures that both PCC and the companies would have to agree on.

“The interim measure is intended so that the review would not be compromised. [Essentially, it means] that the situation that was prevailing before the consummation of the transaction would continue to prevail,” Balisacan said.

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It is still unclear if the upcoming Grab monopoly would agree to PCC’s terms.

“The Grab-Uber acquisition is likely to have a far-reaching impact on the riding public and the transportation services. As such, the PCC is looking at the deal closely,” the PCC earlier said in a statement.

It said the deal would put Grab in a virtual monopoly in the ride-hailing market and its review would determine whether the transaction would substantially reduce competition.

The Philippines joins Malaysia, which said on Monday it would look into whether Uber’s move to sell its Southeast Asian business to Grab hindered competition. Earlier, Singapore also began a probe into the deal on similar concerns.

Singapore had already proposed interim measures to require Uber and Grab to maintain their pretransaction independent pricing until the government has completed a review of the deal, arguing that it had “reasonable grounds” to suspect that competition had been infringed by the acquisition.

Singapore-based Grab, Southeast Asia’s biggest ride-sharing company, snapped up main rival Uber’s business in the region, promising better services through its enlarged network. Grab said it would take over Uber’s operations and assets in the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, ending months of speculation.

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TAGS: Competition Chair Arsenio Balisacan, Grab-Uber deal, Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), ride-hailing firms
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