June 15, 2017 / 8:00 AM / 3 months ago

Daimler invests in ride-hailing firm Careem's latest funding round

A Saudi woman shows the Careem app on her mobile phone in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 2, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/Files

DUBAI (Reuters) - Dubai-based ride hailing firm Careem will step up expansion into new markets after raising $150 million from investors, including German carmaker Daimler and Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding.

After the fundraising, Careem, an Uber rival operating in 12 mainly Middle East countries, wants to move into new markets in North Africa, such as Tunisia and Algeria, while strengthening its position in Kuwait and Turkey, CEO Mudassir Sheikha told Reuters by telephone.

“That continues to be a focus, getting into more cities, more markets.”

The latest fundraising, announced on Thursday, increases investment in the company to $500 million from $350 million last December when it was valued at $1 billion.

Participants also included venture capital firm DCM Ventures and hedge fund Coatue Management.

Sheikha said Careem could speed up existing plans to expand its number of registered drivers to one million next year from 250,000 today after the latest funding round.

A Saudi woman uses the Careem app on her mobile phone in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 2, 2017. Picture taken January 2, 2017. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/Files

“We just need to bring a lot more scale and get a lot more people on platform; both the customer and the captains side,” he said.

The company has around 10 million registered users growing at a rate of 20 percent a month, according to Sheikha.

Kingdom Holding, owned by Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, spent $62 million acquiring 7.11 percent stake in Careem which was partly purchased from emerging markets-focused private equity firm Abraaj Group.

Kingdom Holding, which is also an investor in Uber’s U.S. rival Lyft, will receive a seat on Careem’s board.

Sheikha said there had been no material impact on Careem’s operations in Qatar which earlier this month had diplomatic, economic and transport ties cut off by four Arab countries.

He also said the firm had “no plans” to enter Iran, one of the region’s largest economies, whilst an initial public offering would eventually happen, it is not an immediate focus.

Careem has previously said it is targeting profitability in the second half of 2018.

Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; editing by Jason Neely and Jane Merriman

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