Estonia's Bolt gets $56 mln European funding

TALLINN, Jan 16 (Reuters) - The European Investment Bank (EIB) will offer 50 million euros ($56 million) in debt financing for Estonian ride-sharing service Bolt, aiming to boost development of the platform in its battle against bigger global rival Uber.

Bolt, which is popular ride-sharing in Eastern Europe and Africa, said it will invest the money in improving and expanding its ride-hailing technology as well as in personalised mobility services like food delivery.

“The goal of the funding is to support Bolt’s product development and research in areas where the use of technology can improve the safety, reliability and sustainability of its services, while maintaining the high efficiency of the company’s operations,” Bolt and the EIB said in a joint statement.

Bolt -- which has some 30 million users in 35 countries -- has grabbed business from Uber mostly in major African cities and Eastern Europe.

“I am proud that Europe, through the Investment Plan, supports Estonian platform Bolt’s research and development strategy to create innovative and safe services that will enhance urban mobility,” Paolo Gentiloni, European Commissioner for the Economy, said in the statement.

Bolt, which until a year ago was called Taxify, rebranded to ensure the ride-hailing service is not confused with taxis and to represent its widening offering. It has launched scooter rentals in selected cities and also food delivery.

The 2013-founded Bolt has raised more than $200 million from investors, including Daimler and China’s Didi Chuxing Technology Co, among others.

“Mobility is one of the areas where Europe will really benefit from a local champion who shares the values of European consumers and regulators,” said Bolt’s co-founder Martin Villig. ($1 = 0.8969 euros) (Reporting by Tarmo Virki; editing by Richard Pullin)