Turkish taxi drivers to cut ties with Careem after being purchased by Uber

Taxi drivers in Turkey were shocked after learning that global ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies acquired Middle East rival Careem, according to the head of Turkey’s United Taxi Drivers Association, Hürriyet Daily reported on Wednesday.

Uber, a company Turkish drivers have been in feud for months, announced on Monday that it would pay $1.4 billion in cash and $1.7 billion in convertible notes in a deal that gives it full ownership of Careem, Reuters reported.

Careem, founded in 2012, has a larger presence than Uber in the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan, and Turkey, operating in 98 cities there compared with Uber’s roughly 23 locations.

About 17,400 taxis operate in Istanbul and since Uber entered the country in 2014 tensions have risen sharply. The feud in some instances led to violent attacks against Uber drivers, and the head of the Chamber of Istanbul Taxi Businesses accused Uber of launching a targeted attack on his industry carried out by what he called “the Jewish lobby”. Istanbul’s taxi drivers also took Uber to court accusing it of unfair competition.

The Turkish government in May 2018 introduced changes in taxi regulations to bring in heavy penalties for providing unlicensed minicab services leading to authorities revoking licenses issued to Uber drivers.

Careem in January made a deal with the Chamber of Istanbul Taxi Businesses and announced that it would only work with yellow taxis in Istanbul, should they complete Careem’s trainings for drivers.

According to Hüseyin Duman, the head of Turkey’s United Taxi Drivers Association, there are at the moment 1,500 taxis working for Careem.

“We are through with Careem,” he said.  “This move of Uber is aimed at entering Middle East markets. Because Careem is dominant in the Middle East, they have bought it.”

“Once the Uber trial ends, I am absolutely sure that Uber will be finished in Turkey,” Duman said.