FILE PHOTO: The logo of Uber is seen on an iPad, during a news conference to announce Uber resumes ride-hailing service, in Taipei
INTERNATIONAL - Uber Technologies and Car- eem Networks are in preliminary talks to combine their Middle Eastern ride-hailing services, hoping to resolve a costly rivalry as Uber prepares for an initial public offering (IPO) next year, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The companies have discussed a number of potential deal structures, but they haven’t come to an agreement on the contours, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private.

Uber has sold operations in Southeast Asia, Russia and China, and insisted that it was done selling off its global business piecemeal. In its discussions with Careem, Uber has said it would need to own more than half of the combined company, if not buy Careem outright, according to the people familiar with the talks.

A spokesperson for Uber declined to comment. Maha Abouelenein, a spokesperson at Careem, declined to comment on the talks, saying the company is “only starting” on its expansion plans.

Under one proposed ar- rangement, Careem’s current leaders would manage the new combined business on a day-to-day basis, while retaining one or both of the companies’ local brands, the people said.

Another proposal would have Uber acquire Careem. The people also said that discussions have been ongoing and may not result in a deal.

Careem, a local favourite, is in talks with investors to raise $500million (R6.87billion), potentially valuing the Dubai-based ride-hailing company at about $1.5bn. The company is said to have held early talks with banks about a potential IPO in January.

Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said at a conference in May that he believed Uber would come out on top in India, the Middle East and Africa. “We are going to be, I believe, the winning player in those markets and we’re going to control our own destiny,” Khosrowshahi said.

Uber has been slimming down its businesses outside its core markets as it prepares for its own IPO in 2019. Last year, Uber and Yandex agreed to merge their ride-hailing businesses in Russia, and are targeting an IPO of the business in 2019. In March, Uber agreed to swop its business in Southeast Asia for a 27.5percent stake in Singapore-based rival Grab Holdings.

Careem operates in over 70 cities across at least 10 countries from North Africa to Pakistan. Its biggest market is Saudi Arabia, where Uber has been pushing plans to sign up female drivers to take advantage of the kingdom’s decision to overturn a ban on women behind the wheel. 

- BLOOMBERG