Uber’s Mideast business Careem to cease operations in Qatar

DOHA, Feb 28 (Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc’s (UBER.N) Middle Eastern business Careem will cease operations in Qatar from Tuesday, the company said in a message sent to customers in the Gulf Arab state on Monday.

The surprise announcement comes two months after the soccer World Cup in Qatar, when Careem-branded vehicles were part of the tournament’s official plans to transport visiting fans, alongside cars from Uber and local taxi provider Karwa.

“Unfortunately, Careem’s ride hailing operations will no longer operate in Qatar as of February 28, 2023,” said the message, which also informed customers holding Careem credit that the company would issue a full refund by March 15.

Careem’s message did not offer any explanation for why it will cease operating. Careem did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

Careem was acquired by Uber in 2019 for $3.1 billion, giving the U.S. firm market dominance across the Middle East and Pakistan.

Uber also declined to comment on why Careem had stopped operating in Qatar, but said in a WhatsApp message to Reuters that competition authorities in Qatar had not granted regulatory approval for the acquisition in the country, and so the sale of Careem’s Qatari business had not closed.

“While regulatory approvals in other countries were obtained, unfortunately, this did not happen in Qatar,” the message from Uber said.

Qatar’s government media office did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

Careem only offered ride-hailing services in Qatar, unlike in larger Middle Eastern markets like the United Arab Emirates where the company offers a range of services on its application, including food delivery, digital payments and courier services.

Uber’s smartphone application offers ride-hailing services in Qatar and continued to operate normally on Tuesday.

Reporting and writing by Andrew Mills Editing by Aurora Ellis and Mark Potter