Toyota to invest US$1b in Grab's latest funding round

Jonathan Loh

In March, Grab boosted its grip on Southeast Asia by buying Uber's business in the region. The six-year-old company faces fierce competition from Indonesian rival Go-Jek, which is expanding ride-hailing and other services in Southeast Asia.

"This investment isn't necessarily about making money, but about getting access to technology that fits in some place in Toyota's broader business", said Edwin Merner, the Tokyo-based president of Atlantis Investment Research Corp., which doesn't own Toyota shares but is invested in Toyota Tsusho.

A Toyota executive will be appointed to Grab's board of directors and a dedicated Toyota team member will be seconded to Grab as an executive officer, the ride-hailing firm said.

Grab added that the investment will allow Grab to further expand its range of online-to-offline services, such as GrabFood and GrabPay, deeper into the region.

Toyota is investing a further $US1 billion in ride-sharing giant Grab.

Both companies have already begun collaboration in the field of connected vehicles by, for example, providing driving-data-based automotive insurance for Grab's rental fleet in Singapore through local insurance companies.

Grab and Toyota will also roll-out connected auto services, such as telematics-based insurance, which may reduce the cost of insurance premiums for safer Grab drivers.

Toyota has installed its driving recorder devices in some vehicles operated by Grab, using the collected data stored in its mobility services platform to analyse driving patterns and develop vehicle services.

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Through this new agreement, Toyota and Grab plan to shift into full-scale implementation of services they have been developing to customers.

Toyota, the world's most valuable carmaker with a market capitalization of about $221 billion, has sought partnerships with tech companies in a bet that data will be a key part of its future.

There has been speculation for several years about a potential IPO for Grab, but in April, CEO Anthony Tan told CNBC it was just one of "many options" for the company. This strong partnership will enable us to become the one-stop mobility platform in Southeast Asia.

"We look forward to executing the same vision of the future. We will continue to work with global leaders like Toyota in bringing this vision to pass", said Anthony Tan, co-founder and CEO of Grab.

On April 8, Uber's rideshare service disappeared and commuters in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam switched over to the Grab app.

Toyota executive VP Shigeki Tomoyama, who is president of hte in-house Connected Company, said the collaboration will utilise Toyota's connected technologies.

Grab will also work with Toyota on connected vehicle services such as user-based insurance, financing programmes and predictive maintenance features for Grab's drivers.

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