Uber has long had a tumultuous relationship with two of its major Asian investors, and now things are getting more complicated still. SoftBank is the investor that was at the heart of a 2017 kerfuffle that involved the entire Uber board and then-CEO Travis Kalanick, while Didi was once Uber’s main rival in China before it managed to oust the San Francisco-based company altogether from the country. The two entities are now teaming up, but it’s not for Uber’s benefit. Rather, Didi and SoftBank are working together to bring ride-hailing services to Japan. And yes, that will directly threaten Uber’s business in the Asian nation.
It comes as little surprise that Didi is making moves throughout the Asian continent. After all, ever since it acquired Uber, it’s been expanding quite rapidly. Early in 2018, Didi moved into the Brazilian market after acquiring local service 99, and has also recently moved its services to Taiwan by way of a franchise. And as we reported last December, Didi raised a $ 4 billion funding round with the main goal of international expansion.
SoftBank’s involvement, however, is a little trickier. The Chinese financial giant is Uber’s largest shareholder, following its $ 1.1 billion direct investment and its $ 7.7 billion total investment. To be fair, investors often back multiple companies in the same space, but even so, the decision to create a competitor to rival an investment is a bit surprising.
In any case, the Didi and SoftBank partnership is bringing expansion opportunities to Japan. Pilot programs will soon take place in Osaka, Kyoto, Fukuoka, Tokyo, and others.
“Didi and SoftBank will diligently study local market conditions and policies, and will actively engage with industry practitioners, policymakers and other stakeholders, with the aim of building an open and inclusive platform that will be available to all of Japan’s taxi operators,” Didi said in a statement.