Executives of Scandal-Hit Uber Travel Globe to Reassure Regulators

By Reuters
November 27, 2017 Updated: November 27, 2017

TOKYO—Uber executives are traveling the globe to reassure regulators that the company is changing the way it does business, after a string of controversies hurt the ride-hailing firm’s reputation, its Asian head told Reuters on Monday.

It is also still in talks with Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp <9984.T> for an investment, said Brooks Entwistle, Uber Technologies’ [UBER.UL] recently appointed chief business officer for Asia Pacific.

The comments come on the heels of Uber’s disclosure last week that it covered up a 2016 data breach involving 57 million customers and drivers. The revelation prompted governments in countries including Britain, the United States, Australia and the Philippines to launch probes into the breach and Uber’s handling of the matter.

“We have changed tacks in so many ways in dealing with regulators, dealing with governments,” Entwistle said in an interview in Tokyo, where he is meeting Japanese officials and potential business partners.

This suggests the world’s largest ride-hailing firm, known for its tough stance against regulators, is taking a less disruptive and more consensual approach in the wake of scandals that have led to criticism of its corporate culture.

A stream of executives have left Uber in recent months amid controversies involving sexual harassment, data privacy and business practices in Asia. The board also removed Travis Kalanick as its chief executive in June.

Softbank Deal

The disclosure of the 2016 data breach at a time when Uber is trying to bring in Japanese firm SoftBank as an investor has spurred speculation about the price of the deal.

SoftBank and Dragoneer Investment Group agreed on Nov. 12 to lead a group that would invest as much as $10 billion in Uber, people familiar with the deal previously told Reuters.

And according to sources, Uber has plans to disclose the pricing of the SoftBank deal in formal tender offers to existing investors this week.

“The transaction is still underway and its an extraordinary validation that an investor like SoftBank would look at Uber,” said Entwistle.

A SoftBank spokesman declined to comment.

Regional Plans

SoftBank has become a prolific investor in ride-hailing firms across Asia, including Southeast Asia’s Grab, China’s DiDi Chuxing and India’s Ola, leading to expectations it could drive consolidation in the region.

While Uber sold its business in China to DiDi last year, it remains committed to operating in the broader region for years to come, said Entwistle, who joined the company in August.

The firm has not given up on the Japanese market, which has barred non-professional drivers from offering taxi services, and is working on partnering with traditional taxi firms, he said.

Uber hopes the 2020 Tokyo Olympics could provide a venue to demonstrate the value of ride-sharing firms in a potentially lucrative market, he said.

“We are innovating and in some markets that will take longer and we realize that,” Entwistle said.