Controversial private car hire firm Uber has received its biggest cash injection so far, after the Saudi Arabian royal government’s investment arm put US$3.5bn into the company.
The investment from the Public Investment Fund (PIF) is one of the largest ever in a private technology company, and closes Uber’s series G fundraising round, which saw the Silicon Valley firm raise more than US$5bn from investors.
As a result of the deal, PIF will own 5% of Uber with Yasir Al Rumayya, the investment firm’s managing director, joining the taxi company’s board.
In a statement, Al Rumayyan said: “We’ve seen first-hand how this company has improved urban mobility around the world and we’re looking forward to being part of the process”.
Travis Kalanick, chief executive of Uber, said: “Our experience in Saudi Arabia is a great example of how Uber can benefit riders, drivers and cities, and we look forward to partnering to support their economic and social reforms.”
San Francisco-based Uber, which uses an app for people to hail its private-hire cars, said the investment will be used to help its worldwide expansion.
Uber has said the Middle East and North Africa account for one of its fastest-growing regions.
The company said at the beginning of 2016, it had 395,000 riders there and 19,000 active drivers- a four-fold increase from the year prior.
The firm has long been focused on expanding into more than 70 countries worldwide, including the difficult-to-crack Chinese market.
Didi Kuaidi was formed a year ago when China’s top two on-demand services joined forces, and is currently ahead of Uber based on total coverage of China.