Uber has raised a further $1.6bn from investors as the car-hailing service accelerates its plans for global domination.
The company, the world’s most valuable venture-backed start-up, was already worth about $41bn (£27bn) before the latest injection of funds from clients of Goldman Sachs’ wealth management service.
Uber remains in talks to raise $600m from hedge funds and other investors to add to the $1.2bn raised in December, according to a Bloomberg report. It has now raised some $4bn since being founded in 2009.
The service is now available in 270 cities around the world but has varied its offering in a bid to comply with varying local regulations. In London it offers a minicab-style taxi hire, but ride-sharing in Paris and carpooling in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Nevertheless Uber has been hit with court injunctions in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain for violating taxi licensing rules.
On Thursday South Korea stepped up its legal battle against the company, with its telecom watchdog reporting Uber to prosecutors for violating communications rules.
European ‘jobs’ promises
The move came a month after prosecutors indicted Travis Kalanick, Uber’s American founder and chief executive, along with its Korean partner MK Korea, for operating an illegal cab service.
Uber began operating in Seoul in 2013, sparking angry protests from taxi drivers. “Go-slow” protests were staged by cab drivers in cities including Paris and London last year.
Seoul regulators are offering a 1m won (£600) reward to those who report drivers offering rides through Uber.
Kalanick said this week that Uber would seek out new partnerships with European cities as he claimed that the venture would create 50,000 jobs this year and reduce traffic congestion.
However, Uber would not be employing workers directly given that its drivers are regarded legally as independent contractors in cities where it operates as a minicab firm, which as London.
Since 2010, Uber has created the equivalent of 35,000 full-time jobs in its four largest markets - San Francisco, New York, London and Paris, Kalanick said.
The promise of a new approach in Europe is a change of tack from Kalanick, who has become known for striking hard bargains with cities that attempt to force Uber to comply with what it regards as outdated or protectionist regulation.
Uber has faced regulatory scrutiny and court injunctions since its inception in San Francisco.
It has also been criticised for aggressive responses to rivals and critics as well as questions over whether the company has enough safeguards in place to ensure the physical safety and privacy of passengers.
This article was written by Chris Johnston, for theguardian.com on Thursday 22nd January 2015 11.42 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010