• Costa Rica Real Estate

Uber gets $200 million for international expansion

February 13, 2016

The ride-hailing app Uber got a $200 million boost from investors Friday to help its push into emerging markets. The latest round comes from Luxembourg-based investment group LetterOne (L1), according to a joint statement.

The news of the multi-million-dollar investment came soon after the Costa Rican government met with several taxi unions on Thursday. During a news conference following the meeting, Presidency Minister Sergio Alfaro said Uber, valued at $50 billion, has a “strong negative social impact” on Costa Rica.

“Our goal is simple: reliable and affordable transportation everywhere, for everyone, at the push of a button,” said Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick. “L1’s knowledge of emerging markets will be crucial in helping us make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more opportunities for drivers.”

Uber has aggressively expanded around the world, especially in Asia, and is now operating in more than 60 countries around the world. In Latin America, Uber operates in 22 cities from Mexico to Argentina. The company started operations in Costa Rica in August 2015 and has announced plans to hire 300 people for a corporate services operation in San José.

The company’s expansion has chaffed against Costa Rica’s official taxis and left President Luis Guillermo Solís’ administration with an uncertain strategy to combat the app’s spread. Taxi drivers blocked traffic in front of the president’s office in Zapote, in southeastern San José, on Feb. 1 after the administration refused to block its download. On Wednesday a female taxi driver chained herself to a tree outside the president’s home in protest over Uber, unlicensed “pirate” taxis and regulations for red taxis.

The Solís government has maintained that the company’s service is illegal in Costa Rica but has yet to outline an enforcement strategy.

“This concerns us as the government because we don’t have the administrative tools to block Internet applications,” Alfaro said. The presidency minister said that while the executive branch could not block the application, a court order might be able to.

There was no mention during the three-hour meeting how the government would address non-Uber unlicensed transportation, Presidency Ministry spokeswoman Ilse Chango said.

Taxi drivers did not say if they planned to protest again over the application or perceived government inaction. Alfaro said the administration is open to continuing dialogue with the taxi unions.

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