Lyft starts Canada service in first international foray

TORONTO (Reuters) - U.S. ride-hailing company Lyft Inc on Tuesday launched its service in Toronto, marking the first time it has taken its battle against the much larger Uber Technologies Inc outside of the United States.

Lyft presents itself as a friendlier version of Uber, which is facing investigations by governments around the world, including in Canada, over its cover up of a massive 2016 data breach. Uber has been criticized for a lax attitude to regulations and accused of trade-secret theft.

“This is a monumental day for Lyft,” the company’s Toronto general manager Tim Houghton told a news conference, before Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman hailed the company’s first Canadian ride to deliver toys to a local hospital.

“Passengers want another option and drivers know that Lyft was built on caring for its driver community and want that experience,” he said.

Houghton said more than 50,000 people in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, have downloaded the Lyft app this year, but declined to say how many drivers have signed up beyond saying the number was above 100.

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Uber said it has 32,000 drivers in Toronto who have made at least four trips in the last month.

“We’re committed to ensuring that we have the right number of drivers to meet the demand we’re seeing in the market,” Houghton said in an interview.

He declined to say if the company was planning to launch in other Canadian cities. Lyft will pay Toronto drivers 75-80 percent of the fare passengers pay, comparable to what Uber pays, Houghton said.

Uber, which has operated in Canada for five years, said it welcomed competition that would encourage the use of more shared mobility services over having people driving their own cars.

Lyft raised $1 billion in October, in a financing round led by CapitalG, the growth investment fund of Alphabet Inc GOOGL.O and in September hired an initial public offering advisory firm.

Reporting by Alastair Sharp in Toronto; Editing by Susan Thomas and Andrew Hay