Uber will keep its Asian headquarters in Singapore for now, the ride-hailing giant said Thursday, blaming regulatory uncertainty for thwarting a mooted shift to Hong Kong.
The decision came weeks after China imposed a controversial national security law on Hong Kong — although Uber did not mention the legislation in its announcement.
The company announced massive layoffs in May due to the coronavirus, and said it was ready to move its regional base to the semi-autonomous Chinese city if there was progress on regulation there.
Uber has been operating in Hong Kong for several years despite not being legal there and facing strong resistance from the local taxi industry.
Announcing its decision, Uber said in a statement it had “seen strong public support for reform (in Hong Kong), but not the level of certainty from the government that we need”.
“We have decided to keep Singapore as a regional hub for the medium term,” the statement added.
Its Asian headquarters will remain in Singapore until the end of 2022, at the earliest. Its office in the city-state has about 90 employees.
The San Francisco-based company has not operated ride-hailing or food delivery services in Singapore since 2018, when it sold its Southeast Asian businesses to rival Grab.
In May, Uber Hong Kong general manager Estyn Chung said that “regulatory certainty is key” to shifting its Asian base, the South China Morning Post newspaper reported.
“It’s time for the government to regulate ride-sharing so we can bring jobs and investment to Hong Kong,” he said.
The national security law tightens China’s control over Hong Kong dramatically.
Beijing argues it is needed to restore peace after mass protests last year, but Western governments, including the United States, have denounced it for eroding the city’s freedoms.
There have been concerns that heightened legal uncertainty will scare away foreign investors, although some businesses have welcomed the prospect of greater stability. (AFP)