Uber is set to invest ‘heavily’ in Australia, executive says

Uber counts Australia as one of its main markets and is investing heavily in the country’s ride-hailing industry, according to a senior executive at the tech firm.

Ride-sharing has had good adoption in Australia and there’s competition from local rival GoCatch, the mature taxi industry and other firms, like India’s Ola, who are planning to enter the market, Henry Greenacre, general manager for Australia and New Zealand at Uber, told CNBC.

Uber also said that it was expanding its presence in the country by launching its carpooling service, Uber Pool, in Sydney on April 3.

“We’re investing really heavily in Australia,” Greenacre said. “We think ride-sharing has had great adoption here but we think there’s still a huge amount of space for us to grow, and by investing in something like Uber Pool, we’re investing heavily in that. We think that product will stand on its own two feet relatively quickly.”

Currently there are more than 85,000 Uber drivers in Australia, according to Greenacre .

Still, competition has not always been favorable for Uber, which struggled with containing losses in recent years. The firm’s losses surged 61 percent in 2017 to $4.5 billion, though its loss in the fourth quarter narrowed from the prior period.

Since taking over from Travis Kalanick last year, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has focused on cleaning up the company’s battered reputation and instilling financial discipline to push toward profitability. Last November, Khosrowshahi said Uber had plans to try and go public by 2019.

Recently, the firm agreed to sell its business in Southeast Asia to Singapore-based regional rival Grab. Before that, Uber sold its China business to local competitor Didi Chuxing and merged its operations in Russia and neighboring countries with local tech company Yandex.

When asked if he thought Uber was struggling in emerging markets, Greenacre said Uber has a “thriving business” in places like India and the Middle East. Yet, Indian media recently reported that Japan’s SoftBank, which is an investor in Uber and India’s Ola, could be pushing for a merger between the two firms in the future.

“Dara, our CEO, has come out and said we will continue to invest really heavily in those types of areas, as well as invest heavily in our more core markets and Australia is one of those markets,” Greenacre said.

“What he has also made clear is that we need to show a path to profitability and a path to IPO and this is all part of that,” he added.