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Uber takes its most significant investment yet at $3.5 billion from Saudi Arabia

TechCrunch TechCrunch 1/06/2016 Sarah Buhr

Uber announced today it took $3.5 billion from Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s main investment fund as part of its latest round.

The new investment is the largest to date for the ridesharing giant and brings the total balance of both cash and debt to more than $11 billion but doesn’t increase the company’s current $62.5 billion value.

Uber rules the U.S. market as the dominant ridesharing service and continues to forge ahead on global expansion and the Middle East is a key area in the company’s future.

Uber also operates in surrounding Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt and the United Arab Emirates and partners with those country’s government entities to hire and educate drivers. According to the company, there are more than 395,000 active riders in the region.

“We appreciate the vote of confidence in our business as we continue to expand our global presence,” Uber founder Travis Kalanick said in a statement. “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.”

According to the company, the investment aligns with Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s recently announced plans to reduce dependence on oil and oil-related industries.

“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,” PIF’s Yasir Al Ruymayyan said in a statement.

However, the country has been criticized for not allowing women to drive and transportation is a huge problem for that half of the population. Saudi Arabia believes Uber offers a solution by supplying on-demand rides for women – Uber has been operating in the country since 2014 and says about 80 percent of all riders are female.

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