Uber Meets Minister, But Not Yet Ready to Launch

Representatives of the ride-hailing service Uber Technologies Inc. told the commerce minister that the company is impressed with the Cambodian economy, but needs more time to assess the local market before launching here, the ministry said in a Facebook post on Friday.

Two representatives of the San Francisco-based tech firm told Minister Pan Sorasak on Thursday that “they were very impressed with…Cambodia’s new market, but at the same time they need to understand more about [the] economic situation, people’s living standard[s] and other challenges” before launching the service here, according to the post.

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Uber representatives Chan Park, left, and Brian Shroder in a meeting with Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak on Thursday, in a photograph posted to the ministry’s Facebook page

Mr. Sorasak encouraged the company to register with the ministry and to cooperate with Ministry of Public Works and Transport as well as Phnom Penh municipal authorities to take advantage of Cambodia’s roughly 7 percent annual growth rate, the post said.

Neither Uber nor the ministry responded to requests for comment.

Uber’s app allows travelers to hail rides from ordinary drivers in cities across the world, regularly drawing ire from local authorities and taxi companies. The private company has been valued in private equity markets at $69 billion in spite of financial losses that one source told Bloomberg news exceeded $2.2 billion in the last nine months of last year.

In Cambodia, the company would face a nascent crop of local competition from ride-hailing apps Exnet Taxi Cambodia, PassApp Taxi, Choice Taxi and ITsumo.

Exnet’s founder Daluch Hor said the app had been downloaded about 20,000 times and the company was averaging 300 rides a day with 100 or so professional taxi drivers, a figure he said was “increasing sharply.”

“It’s normal that we will face some challenges to share market segment [with] other companies since the size of [the] market in Phnom Penh is already small,” Mr. Hor said in a Facebook message.

“We will distinguish ourselves by [continually] improving service,” he added.

PassApp creator Pop Nimol said his business had surged to 100 rides a day across the roughly 50 tuk-tuks and 30 private cars that are contracted with the service. He noted that the company had not had any issues or problems with the government.

Mr. Nimol also did not believe Uber posed a threat to his app, which he said focused more on local clientele than the multibillion-dollar rival.

“You know how many Cambodian people live in Cambodia compared to foreigners?” he asked. “A lot.”

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