Following Singapore, Philippines regulator forces Grab to delay closing Uber’s app

Grab has given the Uber app a stay of execution in yet another market as regulators across Southeast Asia continue to investigate the merger deal announced between the ride-hailing companies last month.

Fresh from extending the closure date a week in Singapore, Grab has done the same in the Philippines, a spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch. This extension follows an order from the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) made over the weekend, and it now means that Uber’s app will cease running in the country on April 16.

Elsewhere, Grab shuttered the Uber app in its six other markets in Southeast Asia today as planned, two weeks after the merger deal was confirmed. As for Uber Eats, that app will live on in the region until the end of May, after which it will be folded into Grab Eats.

It appears that Grab didn’t count on Southeast Asia’s being so intent to probe the tie-up.

The Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) said last month that it had “reasonable grounds” to suspect that the deal may fall foul of section 54 of Singapore’s Competition Act, while the PCC voiced similar concerns last week.

“This move by Uber in the Philippine market leads to further substantial concentration of what is, to begin with, an already highly concentrated ride-sharing market. This virtual monopolization of the market by Grab can harm the riding public,” the organization’s chairman Arsenio M. Balisacan wrote in a statement.

That was countered by Uber, which argued that it is no longer in business in the region.

“Uber exited eight markets, including the Philippines, as of Monday. Now, I look after 10 markets, instead of 18. Our funding is gone. Our people are gone. We don’t intend to come back to these markets,” Brooks Entwistle, head of Uber’s Asia Pacific business, told the PCC at a hearing on Friday, according to Rappler.

If Uber is gone, who will run the app? That’s a valid question raised by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) in the Philippines, which pointed out that consumer safety could be compromised without customer services and other Uber teams.

For now, Grab is stepping up and running the Uber app at its own cost, the company has confirmed. That may keep the lights on, but Grab-operating the Uber doesn’t really address the core issue of the PCC which is competition between two players. On that count, Uber has already left the building.

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