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Uber gets $3.5 billion investment from Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has announced a $3.5 billion investment in ride-hailing giant Uber. The company plans to use the funds to expand in the Middle East and North Africa - some of its fastest growing markets.

Ride-hailing giant Uber announced Wednesday it had secured a $3.5 billion (3.1 billion euro) investment from Saudi Arabia's sovereign investment fund to help finance its global expansion plans, especially in the Middle East and North Africa.

The deal boosts Uber's cash holdings to more than $11 billion and gives Uber a valuation, or implied value, of $62.5 billion. The deal also calls for the head of the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, Yasir Al Rumayyan, to join the Uber board.

"We appreciate the vote of confidence in our business as we continue to expand our global presence," Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick said in a statement. "Our experience in Saudi Arabia is a great example of how Uber can benefit riders, drivers and cities, and we look forward to partnering to support their economic and social reforms."

Rumayyan said in a statement, "We've seen first-hand how this company has improved urban mobility around the world and we're looking forward to being part of that progress."

Watch video 01:18

Anti-Uber protests by taxi drivers in Bogota

He also said the plan fits with the kingdom's

Vision 2030,

an economic reform plan for diversifying its economy and reducing its dependence on oil.

"This ambitious and far-reaching plan presents a number of goals, including unlocking strategic sectors such as tourism and entertainment, boosting employment opportunities and women's participation in the workforce, and encouraging entrepreneurship," he added.

Upping regional investment

Uber plans to invest $250 million (223 million euro) in the region which includes Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Bahrain, Qatar and Morocco.

The company says that around 80 percent of Uber riders in Saudi Arabia are women. Uber says its expansion can help boost entrepreneurship and improve mobility for women, who are prohibited from driving in the country.

Originally founded in San Francisco, Uber has expanded to hundreds of cities worldwide, despite

protests from established taxi operators and regulators

in many countries.

In March, 2015, a German court

imposed a nationwide ban

on the ride-sharing app, saying that each violation was subject to a 250,000-euro ($279,000) fine.

bw/gsw (AP, AFP)

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