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Saudi prince is investing millions more in Uber’s Middle East rival

Posted at 8:14 AM, Oct 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-18 10:14:04-04

Uber’s rival in the Middle East just got a big financial boost.

Careem, the ride-hailing app based in Dubai, received $200 million in a funding round led by Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal.

The investment by his company, Kingdom Holding, values Careem at more than $2 billion, according to a person with knowledge of the deal. That’s up from about $886 million in 2017, when Kingdom Holding bought 7% of Careem.

It comes as Saudi Arabia’s network of business ties and global tech investments comes under intense scrutiny following the unexplained disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul more than 2 weeks ago.

Turkish officials have told CNN he was killed inside the consulate. Saudi authorities have so far maintained that Khashoggi left the consulate the same day, but they have provided no evidence to support the claim.

Some of the biggest names in global business and finance have since dropped out of an investment conference in Riyadh next week.

Kingdom Holding paid $62 million for its Careem stake in 2017. The latest funding round is expected to exceed $500 million, Careem said in a statement on Thursday.

Careem operates in more than 120 cities in the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and Pakistan. Other shareholders include Japan’s Rakuten (RKUNF), Saudi Telecom Company, Germany’s Daimler (DDAIF) and China’s Didi Chuxing.

Rakuten was also involved in the latest funding round.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was among dozens of royals, government officials and prominent businessmen arrested in November as part of a crackdown on alleged corruption in the kingdom.

He was held for nearly three months. His first big deal following his release was a $267 million investment in French music streaming platform, Deezer.

“The investment in Careem is a continuation of the company’s strategy to invest in new promising technologies,” Kingdom Holding said in a statement on Thursday.

The company owns shares in Twitter (TWTR), Citigroup (C) and JD.com (JD), and has also invested in Lyft.