Coronavirus: Uber’s Middle East Careem says ride-hailing demand to recover next year

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Careem, a unit of Uber Technologies, expects ride-hailing demand to recover to pre-pandemic levels “sometime” in 2021, encouraged by a better-than-expected pickup as countries started to ease coronavirus-related curbs.

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“It’s been a tough couple of months,” Careem Chief Executive Mudassir Sheikha told Reuters on Sunday.

“It’s really anyone’s guess. We have planned for a recovery (in ride-hailing) sometime next year but ... the recovery has begun and the recovery has been faster already than our initial projections.”

The company, which primarily operates in the Middle East, has seen its overall business, which also includes delivery services such as take-away food, recover at an almost double-digit rate week-on-week over the past two months as countries eased restrictions, he said.

“I’m actually quite bullish on the rest of the year and the next few years as a result of some of the restrictions that were put on our movement and the growth it led to in the adoption of digital platforms.”

Dubai-headquartered Careem will fast-track plans to add more features to its ‘Super App’ that has expanded to also include some payment services.

It announced on Sunday it had signed a multi-year agreement with Visa that will see Visa push payment services become available through the app.

Careem, which was bought by Uber last year for $3.1 billion, shed nearly a third of its workforce as a result of the pandemic, laying off 536 staff.

“We did a lot of things in our business in the last three months that now position us well for any future disruptions were they to come,” Sheikha said.

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