Uber is considering moving its Asia-Pacific headquarters to Hong Kong if the government agrees to allow the ride-hailing firm to operate in the city legally, the Post has learned.
The US-based firm is weighing the potential move as it looks to follow through on plans to relocate its Asia-Pacific headquarters from Singapore in the next 12 months after taking a beating amid the Covid-19 pandemic, a reliable source told the Post.
The source said a move to Hong Kong would serve as a vote of confidence in the city’s political and economic future as it attempts to recover from the double blow of protest-driven social unrest and the subsequent Covid-19 outbreak, which saw many businesses shut down or downsize.
“The move would be a substantial investment for Uber and produce a positive synergistic effect on the city’s economy amid the coronavirus-ravaged downturn,” the source said.
“It would also boost investor confidence in Hong Kong. But to make it possible, the government needs to provide a business-friendly environment where Uber could see the future – a regulatory regime for Uber’s ride-hailing business.”
The source said Hong Kong had been a profitable market for Uber, which explained the firm’s reluctance to quit the city despite the government’s repeated crackdowns on its ride-hailing service.
Uber Hong Kong, which has operated in the city for six years, is expected to reveal its future strategies next Tuesday. Its popular Uber rides, which have faced stiff resistance from the local taxi industry, have been deemed illegal for carrying paying passengers without a hire-car license.
“After six years serving Hong Kong and its people, Uber has arrived at an important moment in our history in Hong Kong. We … will make a major announcement on Uber’s long-term business road map and vision for the city,” the company said in a press conference invite.
In 2019, a year after merging its Southeast Asia operations with regional rival Grab, Uber opened its Singapore office to oversee operations in nine Asia-Pacific markets including Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. At the time, the office had about 165 employees.
According to the company’s first-quarter earnings call with investors on May 7, its Hong Kong business posted a strong rebound, achieving 70 per cent of its pre-Covid-19 bookings despite the company’s overall rides business dropping 80 per cent globally in April.