Dubai-based Careem, founded in 2012, claims more than 30 million registered users and sells car-hailing services in 120 cities across North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, from Morocco to Pakistan.
The announcement comes as Uber approaches a much-anticipated initial public offering that reports have said could value the company at as much as $120 billion. It is expected to be one of the biggest tech IPOs in history.
Careem was valued at about $1 billion in a 2016 funding round, making it one of the most valuable technology startups in the Middle East. The company has over a million drivers and operates in more than 90 cities in 15 countries, according to its website.
Careem CEO Mudassir Sheikha said: “Joining forces with Uber will help us accelerate Careem’s purpose of simplifying and improving the lives of people and building an awesome organisation that inspires. The mobility and broader internet opportunity in the region is massive and untapped, and has the potential to leapfrog our region into the digital future. We could not have found a better partner than Uber under Dara’s leadership to realise this opportunity. This is a milestone moment for us and the region, and will serve as a catalyst for the region’s technology ecosystem by increasing the availability of resources for budding entrepreneurs from local and global investors.”
Uber says the acquisition will allow it to speed up development of a “consumer-facing super app” that offers services such as Careem’s digital payment platform, Careem Pay and last-mile delivery, Careem Now.
For Uber, a deal would signal its commitment to the Middle East, where one of its biggest investors — a Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund — is based.