Uber board battle ends, stage set for SoftBank-led $10-bn investment

15 November, 2017, 00:51 | Author: Becky Perry

Uber Technologies Inc., a US ride-hailing giant, agreed Sunday on an investment by Japanese technology conglomerate SoftBank, which may make Uber to go public, local media reported.

Sunday's agreement also settled a legal battle between former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and venture capital firm Benchmark, an early investor in Uber.

Uber had said funds from SoftBank, subject to the closure of the deal, would help the US-based startup fuel investments in technology and expansion in its home market as well as other countries.

SoftBank is expected to buy up shares from some investors by pumping in as much as $9 billion, in a so-called tender offer to Uber stakeholders.

Essentially, this means that although Uber has agreed to move forward with SoftBank's proposal, the tender offer price is still under negotiation. Some of Uber's early investors, like the venture capital firm Benchmark, initially wanted to retain certain shareholder rights that they hold through their Uber stock, according to two of the people briefed on the discussions.

Currently Uber's largest shareholder is United States venture capital firm Benchmark with a 13 percent stake and founder Travis Kalanick who has a 10 percent stake. The terms were signed on Sunday, although the tender offer would likely take weeks to complete. If the new deal is closed, the SoftBank-led consortium will own about 14 percent stake in the ride-sharing pioneer, now valued at around US$68 billion.

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SoftBank also owns pieces of ride-hailing companies around the world, including Didi Chuxing in China, Ola in India, Grab in Southeast Asia and 99 in Brazil. The deal is also tied to new governance rules that aim to distribute power more equally and bring more oversight to the company.

"Uber had a remarkable first six or seven years, a bumpy past two years, and now the SoftBank deal allows for a full reset", said Bradley Tusk, an Uber investor and political strategist who works with tech companies.

The Japanese group, founded by billionaire Masayoshi Son, expressed an interest several months ago in investing around $1 billion in Uber for a stake of at least 14 percent. A board majority would have to approve any appointments by Kalanick, who controls three seats.

Softbank has yet made no comments on the deal.

The latter filed a lawsuit against Kalanick, accusing him of fraud, breach of contract and of plotting to manipulate the board of directors to allow him to return as CEO following his resignation in June.

SoftBank plans to purchase the Uber shares along with other investors, including Dragoneer, an investment firm. The company has threatened to invest in ride-hailing rival Lyft if it does not get the Uber deal done.

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