Singapore’s antitrust body has proposed fines against ride-sharing giants Uber and Grab after finding that the company’s merger substantially lessened competition in the city-state. It also warned it may move to undo the merger.
The Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) released the result of its investigation into the merger on Thursday, July 5.
In its statement, the CCCS criticized both Grab and Uber for pushing through with the merger last March 26 despite the ongoing investigation at the time.
“(T)he Parties proceeded to complete the Transaction and began the transfer of the acquired assets immediately, despite their own view that the outcome would be irreversible, thus rendering it practically impossible to restore the status quo pre-merger.
“CCCS's investigations also revealed that the Parties had even provided for a mechanism to apportion eventual antitrust financial penalties,” it added.
The CCCS included several propositions to mitigate the effects of the merger, including asking Grab to revert to pre-merger pricing and for Uber to sell its subsidiary Lion City Rentals to a potential competitor who makes a reasonable offer.
“This prevents Grab and Uber from aligning Lion City Rentals with Grab to the disadvantage of Grab's potential competitors, and will facilitate a new entrant's access to a vehicle fleet,” the statement said.
Grab issued its own statement following the announcement from the CCCS, saying the regulatory body had “taken a very narrow approach in defining competion and has not taken into account dynamic competitive developments over the past few months from both new and incumbent taxi and ride-hailing players in Singapore.
“We will take all appropriate steps to appeal this decision in Singapore,” the company added.
The CCCS gave the two companies 15 days to appeal the findings.
The Singapore anti-trust body's findings have no direct immediate bearing on how local regulators will eventually decide on the Grab-Uber merger deal in the Philippines.
The Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) had earlier raised similar concerns about Grab’s acquisition of Uber’s operations in the country. However, it has yet to determine whether remedies to address the resulting lack of competition are working.
“The regulatory landscape and market conditions in the Philippines are quite unique compared to the rest of the region. While the decisions of neighboring competition authorities like Singapore serve as an important reference, the Commission's assessment of potential remedies will be conducted primarily in the context of local laws and markets,” said PCC member Stella Quimbo, who is also an economics professor at the University of the Philippines.
After Grab proposed voluntary commitments to address the PCC’s concerns, the commission suspended adjudication proceedings, said Quimbo.
The commission has until July 31 to negotiate with Grab and Uber, and evaluate whether their proposed commitments are sufficient to address the concerns, she added.
In March, US-based Uber sold its ride-sharing business in Southeast Asia in return for a 27.5 percent stake in Grab.
Paul John Caña is the managing editor of Entrepreneur PH