Editor’s note: This story was updated at 7.30 pm SGT on November 4 after DiDi clarified that it has no plans to expand to the Philippines.
A Philippine politician and businessman has claimed his firm is in talks with Didi Chuxing, China’s largest ride-hailing company with 550 million registered users, to jointly offer ride-hailing services in the country.
Luis “Chavit” Singson, who is the mayor of Narvacan town, Ilocos Sur, told the Inquirer that DiDi is holding negotiations with U-Hop Transportation Network Vehicle System Inc (U-Hop), one of the 10 companies authorised by the transport regulator to operate ride-sharing services in the Philippines.
Singson owns U-Hop, which is renewing its accreditation before the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB). Other small players in the country’s ride-sharing space are Go Lag, Owto, and Hype. Grab is the dominant player with a market share of over 90 per cent.
Singson did not provide further details about the talks with Didi but said a deal could help Filipinos.
“We do not have plans to expand to the Philippines,” a DiDi spokesperson said in response to our queries.
Philippine laws limit foreign companies’ ownership of ride-hailing businesses in the country to just 40 per cent. This provision of the law has so far prevented Indonesian ride-hailing firm Gojek from securing a licence in the country. The firm applied for a licence to operate in Manila in August 2018 through wholly-owned subsidiary Velox but was denied in January after ride-hailing was added to a list of industries where foreign ownership is limited to 40 per cent.
Didi’s reported attempt to challenge Grab in the Philippines could come as a surprise to some considering that the Chinese ride-hailing giant is a Grab investor. Didi, however, is not new to taking on companies it has a stake in.
In Latin America, for instance, Didi competes with Uber, which exited China in 2016. As part of its China exit, Uber acquired a 6 per cent stake in Didi, which also got equity in Uber.