Grab's steady steering offers a smoother ride

Grab's CEO Anthony Tan and co-founder Tan Hooi Ling hold up the Nasdaq Crystal they received from the chairman of Nasdaq APAC, Robert McCooey, at the Grab Bell Ringing Ceremony, at a hotel in Singapore, December 2, 2021. REUTERS/Caroline Chia

HONG KONG, Sept 26 (Reuters Breakingviews) - A rising tide once lifted all of Southeast Asia's technology giants. With a global recession looming and markets in turmoil, their fortunes are starting to diverge. Alex Hungate, the chief operating officer at ride-hailing and food delivery superapp Grab , told Reuters that the $11 billion company is not at the "desperate" point of mass layoffs or hiring freezes. It's a sharp contrast to its $24 billion Singaporean rival Sea (SE.N), which is retrenching globally to achieve financial "self-sufficiency".

The relative confidence is somewhat justified. Unlike Sea, which expanded into Latin America and is now trying to stem ballooning losses, Grab has been focusing on its high-spending customers in Southeast Asia. Second quarter net loss narrowed to $572 million from over $800 million a year earlier. Encouragingly, Hungate stressed the company, which is expected to detail its progress towards profitability at its first investor day tomorrow, is scaling back its fintech ambitions and conserving capital. With shares down over 60% this year, Grab's confident and careful hand at the wheel gives shareholders something to cheer. (By Robyn Mak)

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(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are their own. Refiles to fix capitalisation.)

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