E-hailing company Uber announced Thursday that it received a staggering $3.5 billion investment from Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF), an official long-term sovereign investment body of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The announced investment will allow PIF’s managing director Yasir Al Rumayyan to become a member of Uber’s Board of Directors.
This brings Uber’s total balance sheet, including cash and convertible debt, to over $11 billion.
“The Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund is excited to have completed this important strategic investment with Uber, an extraordinary company with an inspiring mission,” Al Rumayyan said in an official statement released by Uber. “We’ve seen first-hand how this company has improved urban mobility around the world and we’re looking forward to being part of that progress.”
Saudi Princess Reema Bandar Al-Saud, a member of Uber’s global policy advisory board, told the Financial Times that PIF’s investment reflects the attitude change towards the company, which was first receive with skepticism in the region. Talks on the investment started in March.
Ceo and co-founder of Uber Travis Kalanick expressed his gratitude, saying that “we [Uber] appreciate the vote of confidence in our business.”
With over 395,000 riders and around 19,000 drivers, Uber has a strong presence in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The company experienced a notable year-on-year growth with the number of its riders growing over 500% between the first quarter of 2015 and the corresponding quarter this year.
The company is present in nine MENA countries: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Egypt and Israel.
Uber highlighted its role in Egypt, arguing that 40% of its current drivers were previously unemployed. It also stated that it helped provide transportation for Saudi women, who are not permitted to drive and who comprise 80% of all Uber users in the country.
Recently, car hailing companies have been receiving an increased attention from investors.
In India, Uber announced that it will invest $500m by June 2016. This comes a few months after the country’s largest e-hailing service Ola revealed that it has successfully raised $500 million in funds from various investors including investment management firm Baillie Gifford, SoftBank Group and Chinese car-hailing company Didi Chuxing, formally Didi Kuaidi.
Didi Chuxing received a $1 billion investment from Apple Inc. as part of the mobile companies plan to up their sales in the country, newswire Reuters reported. Uber is one of the main competitors of the Chinese car-hailing company.