Since Uber launched its ride-hailing app in 2009, competitors like Lyft, Ola, and Didi, have been mushrooming across the world. Some of them have focused on a more regional approach, taking local cultures into account when designing their product. Careem is one of these, as the company founded in 2012 has worked on adapting its offering to the local customs, such as letting people pay by cash in countries where credit card usage isn't widespread. With a name meaning "generous and humble" in Arabic and services in line with people's way of living, Careem managed to become very popular across the Middle East. Maybe a little too much, as its arch-rival Uber is now acquiring it for $3.1 billion.

This deal essentially means Careem will become a wholly-owned Uber subsidiary, but both apps will co-exist — at least for now. Indeed, customers will continue to use their apps the way they're used to, though a unified one might be in the making, as the press release mentions a "super-app" that includes access to services like Careem Now (delivery) and Careem Pay. Also, it's simple to see how this transaction will help the two brands save on infrastructure costs, including payment processing, and even roll out consistent driver policies. Lastly, despite being vague, the press release mentions increased driver utilization, which could potentially indicate captains would be able to drive both Uber and Careem users.

If all approvals are granted, the closing is expected in early 2020, which gives both companies about a year to further detail their integration and shared vision.

Uber - Request a ride
Uber - Request a ride

Press Release

March 26, 2019, SAN FRANCISCO AND DUBAI — Uber and Careem have reached an agreement for Uber to acquire Careem for $3.1 billion, consisting of $1.7 billion in convertible notes and $1.4 billion in cash. The acquisition of Careem is subject to applicable regulatory approvals. The transaction is expected to close in Q1 2020.

Uber will acquire all of Careem’s mobility, delivery, and payments businesses across the greater Middle East region, ranging from Morocco to Pakistan, with major markets including Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Upon closing, Careem will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Uber, preserving its brand. Careem co-founder and CEO Mudassir Sheikha will lead the Careem business, which will report to its own board made up of three representatives from Uber and two representatives from Careem. Careem and Uber will operate their respective regional services and independent brands.

“This is an important moment for Uber as we continue to expand the strength of our platform around the world. With a proven ability to develop innovative local solutions, Careem has played a key role in shaping the future of urban mobility across the Middle East, becoming one of the most successful startups in the region. Working closely with Careem’s founders, I’m confident we will deliver exceptional outcomes for riders, drivers, and cities, in this fast-moving part of the world,” said Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

“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,” said Careem CEO and co-founder, Mudassir Sheikha.

The greater Middle East region is already seeing the economic and social benefits of rapid technology adoption and improved access to transportation. This transaction supports the collective ability of Careem and Uber to improve the region’s transportation infrastructure at scale and offer diverse mobility, delivery and payment options. It will speed up the delivery of digital services to people in the region through the 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).

This transaction brings together Uber’s global leadership and technical expertise with Careem’s regional technology infrastructure and proven ability to develop innovative local solutions. Both companies believe it will provide an opportunity to expand the variety and reliability of services offered, at a broader range of price points to serve more consumers. Similarly, for drivers and captains, the companies believe an increase in trip growth and improved services could provide better work opportunities as well as higher and more predictable earnings through greater utilisation of drivers’ time on the road.

Jefferies LLC acted as exclusive financial advisor to Careem on the transaction.