Malaysia opens anti-monopoly probe into Grab

Malaysia has opened an anti-monopoly investigation into the Singapore-based ride-hailing firm Grab, amid calls for greater competition.

The Malaysia Competition Commission’s CEO, Iskandar Ismail, said the watchdog was stepping up its investigation after multiple complaints over monopolistic practices after Grab bought out Uber’s Asean operation last year. 

Grab – which operates in eight countries and 336 cities – has become increasingly dominant in the region. 

Its Malaysian co-founder Tan Hooi Ling has been named Forbes 2019 Asia’s Power Businesswomen list.

The 35-year-old with the other co-founder, Anthony Tan, has raised over US$9 billion since the app was launched in 2012.

Iskandar said the body was looking at Malaysia’s state-backed contracts for possible bid-rigging. 

In March, the watchdog said eight firms formed cartels to manipulate bids on tenders involving information technology services for a state-linked institution. 

Iskandar told the media there was a rising interest in how to spot bid-rigging and other monopolistic practices.

Indonesia’s motorcycle ride-hailing provider Go-Jek is making overtures in Malaysia after Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman said the app was an option to address chronic unemployment among the country’s young.

Go-Jek, a rival to Grab, is planning to offer its motorcycle service in the country and held a meeting last month with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. 

The 94-year-old premier pledged to lower the cost of living ahead of his general election victory in May 2018. 

Ride-hailing apps like Grab and Uber are coming under increasing attention by regulators worldwide over concerns they may be dismantling public transport services like taxis, allowing the tech firms to control the market.

In Malaysia, taxi operators say e-hailing providers are creating unfair competition and have been left largely unregulated.

Mahathir has exposed state-backed firms to competition, ordering Telekom Malaysia to share its internet network with other providers. 

Consumers might also be allowed to buy power from providers other than the state-owned Tenaga Nasional.

“It sends a signal to foreign investors wanting to enter Malaysia that it’s going to be a fair playing field without unfair advantages to favoured companies because of political connections or other reasons,” said Alex Holmes of Capital Economics.


Traditional taxis are struggling to cope with ride-hailing apps. Picture credit: Wikimedia