On Wednesday, ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies said it has raised $3.5 billion from Saudi Arabia's sovereign-wealth fund. It was the fund's largest foreign investment, and one of the largest ever in a privately held start-up. The cash infusion makes up the bulk of Uber's record $5 billion latest funding round. With the new financing, Uber is now valued at up to $68 billion, or $20 billion more than General Motors. Uber has been expanding in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, where it now says it has some 395,000 active riders and 19,000 drivers.
Uber says 80 percent of its customers are female in Saudi Arabia, a kingdom where women aren't allowed to drive. "Of course we think women should be allowed to drive," says Uber spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker. "In the absence of that, we have been able to provide extraordinary mobility that didn't exist before — and we're incredibly proud of that."
Saudi Arabia unveiled an ambitious plan in April to diversify its oil-based economy, and the Public Investment Fund plays a big part of that strategy. The fund's managing director, Yasir Al Rumayyan, will now have a seat on Uber's board. Uber, meanwhile, has used its $11 billion in investments to aggressively expand and fend off its growing ranks of competitors around the globe. Uber currently operates in 460 cities in at least 69 countries. The Saudi Public Investment Fund now has about $750 billion invested in U.S. assets.
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