Uber, the online transportation network, last week received a record US$3.5 billion investment from the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) -- the largest-ever investment in a closely held technology firm.
Operating in over 66 countries and 449 cities worldwide, Uber with a valuation of about $62.5 billion, is now considered the most valuable venture capital-backed firm in the world.
The Saudi investment is part of a deal that will allow Uber to expand its Middle East operations, said Yasir Al Rumayyan, managing director of PIF, who will take a seat on Uber's board of directors.
"We appreciate the vote of confidence in our business as we continue to expand our global presence," said Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. "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."
Saudi Arabia is working from the blueprint of its Vision 2030 plan, which is designed to wean the kingdom from dependence on oil, Al Rumayyan said. “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," he commented.
Under the Vision 2030 plan, the country will unlock strategic sectors from tourism and entertainment, encourage entrepreneurship, boost job opportunities, and increase the number of women in the workforce.
Uber currently has invested more than $250 million in the Middle East, operating in nine countries and 15 major cities in the region, including Cairo and Alexandria in Egypt; Beirut; Amman, Jordan; Tel Aviv; Doha, Qatar; and Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. It has more than 395,000 active riders in the region -- a 500 percent increase from the first quarter 2015 to 2016 -- and about 19,000 active drivers. More than 80 percent of riders in Saudi Arabia are women, due in part to women not being allowed to drive or take public transit.