Uber performs U-turn on Macau exit plan

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Global ride-hailing company Uber Technologies has aborted plans to pull out of Macau, citing support from residents in the Chinese-ruled gambling hub.

An illustration picture shows the logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone next to the picture of an official German taxi sign September 15, 2014. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/Illustration/File Photo

Uber launched in Macau less than a year ago but announced at the end of August that it would withdraw from the former Portuguese colony because its drivers faced total fines of 10 million patacas ($1.25 million).

The Macau government has taken a firm stance against Uber, with Secretary for Security Wong Sio Chak stating that the service violated local laws.

“After much deliberation, Uber will continue to serve the riders and drivers of Macau, the company said in a statement on its website.

“The unprecedented amount of support we received over the past few weeks has been overwhelming.”

The statement said the company had received 23,000-plus online signatures in support of its service and also thanked riders, drivers, residents, visitors and legislators who had championed the company’s cause.

“We hope the Government will follow the example set by progressive, pro-innovation policymakers around the region and the world in recognising the role ride-sharing can play in moving Macau forward,” Uber said.

Macau government officials were not immediately available to comment.

Uber has about 2,000 full-time and part-time drivers in the territory and though Macau isn’t a large market Uber’s exit would have been another blow to the fast-growing U.S. company’s ambitions in the region.

Its costly two-year battle to break into the potentially lucrative Chinese market was brought to a close this month with the sale of its operations in the country to Didi Chuxing, though the U.S. company has retained a 20 percent stake.

Uber could also be forced out of Taiwan after authorities demanded that the company pay a sales tax bill and it has also come under legal scrutiny in Hong Kong.

(This version of the story corrects size of retained stake in paragraph 10 to 20 percent, not 5 percent)

Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by David Goodman