Ride-hailing startup Uber raised $3.5 billion from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) in the largest funding it ever raised from a single investor, as part of a $5 billion funding round that valued the company at $68 billion, turning Uber into the world’s most highly valued startup.
This is the Saudi sovereign wealth fund’s largest international investment of its kind, yet a further sign of Saudi Arabia’s plans to transform its economy, reducing its dependence on oil and improving employment.
PIF managing director Yasir Al Rumayyan will be joining Uber’s board of directors, alongside Benchmark Capital general partner Bill Gurley, TPG Capital founding partner David Bonderman, and Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington.
“We’ve seen first-hand how this company has improved urban mobility around the world, and we’re looking forward to being part of that progress,” Al Rumayyan said in a statement.
“As the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign investment arm, we’re focused on achieving attractive long-term financial returns from our investments, while supporting Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, the blueprint for diversifying our economy away from oil. This ambitious and far-reaching plan presents a number of goals, including unlocking strategic sectors such as tourism and entertainment, boosting employment opportunities and women’s participation in the workforce, and encouraging entrepreneurship,” he added.
Women comprise nearly 80 percent of Uber’s passengers in Saudia Arabia, where it has more than 130,000 riders. The country plans to bring 1.3 million women into the workforce by 2030. In the first quarter of 2016, Uber had more than 395,000 active passengers throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), with 19,000 active drivers.
“We appreciate the vote of confidence in our business as we continue to expand our global presence,” said Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick. “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.”
Uber has drawn from a wide variety of investors, including traditional venture capital firms, mutual fund giants like BlackRock, wealthy clients of firms like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, and other sovereign wealth funds such as Qatar’s. With this latest funding round, Uber now reportedly has more than $11 billion at hand on its balance sheet, including cash and debt.
Recently, Volkswagen AG invested $300 million in Tel Aviv-based taxi-hailing app Gett. Toyota Motor Corp. also disclosed an investment in Uber, while Apple sank $1 billion into Chinese rival Didi Chuxing Technology Co., which is backed by Alibaba and Tencent Holdings Ltd.
In January, Lyft raised $1 billion in a Series F round, with half of it funded by General Motors, as part of a plan to test a fleet of self-driving electric taxis beginning next year.
Ironically, The $68 billion privately-held startup now has a greater market value than General Motors (NYSE: GM), which has a market capitalization of $46.36 billion.