December 13, 2018 / 8:20 AM / 10 months ago

Vietnam's newest ride-hailing app 'be' gets funding ahead of launch

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam’s newest ride-hailing player ‘be’ said on Thursday it secured “hundreds of millions U.S. dollars” of investments as it gets ready for launch next week to compete with regional players such as Grab.

As Singapore-based Grab and Indonesia’s Go-Jek expanded across Southeast Asia with a wide range of services, the region has become a battle field for the two rivals following Uber’s exit from the market of over 600 million people.

The app ‘be’, unveiled by BE GROUP, will go live on Dec. 17 with car- and bike-riding services and aims to have 110,000 drivers across Vietnam by the end of next year, its founder and Chief Executive Tran Thanh Hai said.

The app will also have food, delivery, e-payment and financing services in the future, Hai said at its launching ceremony in Hanoi. He did not rule out the chances of ‘be’ expanding outside Vietnam.

The company did not reveal the quantum of funding or who the investors are.

Grab, which counts Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing and Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp among its backers, had 175,000 drivers and bikers in Vietnam as of September and is the most prominent player in Vietnam after it pushed out Uber.

Rival GoJek entered Vietnam in August eyeing to grab a share of the fast-growing market, which also has several other local players. Vietnam has 95 million people and many use smartphones.

All investors of BE GROUP are domestic, while Vietnam Prosperity Joint Stock Commercial Bank is a strategic investor, providing financial support for BE GROUP’s operation, Hai said, without giving more details.

A number of local taxi companies in Vietnam have come together to compete against ride-hailing firms, while Grab has been in a legal battle for more than a year with local taxi firm Vinasun Corp

Another risk for ride-hailing firms in Vietnam is policy. The government is still deciding whether to consider companies like Grab as technology firms or as transportation companies, which would require more business conditions.

The latest app ‘be’ said it positioned itself as a transportation company.

Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier

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