Saudi Arabia Invests $3.5B in Uber

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Uber's pockets just got a whole lot deeper: The ride-hailing service this week raised $3.5 billion from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF).

Marking one of the largest-ever investments into a privately held start-up, the money pushes Uber's latest funding series to $62.5 billion, and its total balance sheet to more than $11 billion.

"We appreciate the vote of confidence in our business as we continue to expand our global presence," company CEO Travis Kalanick said in a statement to PCMag.

In return, Uber will spend $250 million to expand its presence in the Middle East, where it boasts more than 395,000 active riders and 19,000 drivers operating in 15 cities and nine countries—including Saudi Arabia.

As The New York Times explains, the Arab kingdom does not permit women to drive due to fatwas, or Islamic legal pronouncements that tend to uphold segregation between sexes. As a result, about 80 percent of Uber riders in Saudi Arabian are female.

"Of course we think women should be allowed to drive," a company spokeswoman told the Times. "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."

Kalanick concurred, adding that "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."

That includes the aims of Saudi Vision 2030: a sweeping set of programs and improvements—like doubling the number of women in the workforce—to be implemented by 2030.

"PIF sees the massive investment lining up with the Vision 2030 plan and Uber could be a catalyst for more job creation in the kingdom," a spokesman for the investment fund told PCMag.

"We've seen first-hand how this company has improved urban mobility around the world," he said in a statement.

In other Uber news, the company today launched Uber Bike in Amsterdam, which connects bikers with cars that sport bike racks. It's designed for those moments when your legs are too tired to pedal, your bike breaks down miles from home, or a torrential downpour [literally] rains on your parade. Folks in Amsterdam can simply open the mobile Uber app, select "Uber Bike," and enter the address where a rack-equipped car can pick you up. Prices are based on UberX rates, plus an extra €4 for your wheels.

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