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Microsoft investing in Grab to collaborate on AI, big data and tech projects

Singapore

MICROSOFT Corp is investing in South-east Asian ride-hailing firm Grab as part of a partnership that the two companies said will allow them to collaborate on technology projects, including big data and artificial intelligence.

The companies did not disclose the deal value.

Grab had earlier said it planned to raise roughly US$3 billion by year-end, of which it has already raised US$2 billion.

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Last week, Reuters reported that existing backer SoftBank Group Corp was closing in on a deal to invest about US$500 million in Grab as part of the funding round.

Sources said that Grab is likely to tap strategic and financial firms for the remainder of the funding.

Before Tuesday's deal, it raised US$2 billion in 2018, led by Toyota Motor Corp and financial firms, including Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's Vulcan Capital.

Singapore-headquartered Grab has taken its ride-hailing business to 235 cities in eight countries in Southeast Asia in the past six years.

It is looking to transform itself into a leading consumer technology group, offering services such as food and parcel deliveries, electronic money transfers, micro-loans and mobile payments, besides ride-hailing.

Grab will work with Microsoft to explore mobile facial recognition, image recognition and computer vision technologies to improve the pick-up experience, the companies said in a statement on Tuesday.

For example, passengers will be able to take a photo of their current location and have it translated into an actual address for the driver.

Other areas of the five-year agreement include Grab adopting Microsoft's Azure as its preferred cloud platform and using it for data analy-tics and fraud detection services.

South-east Asia, home to some 640 million people, is shaping up as a battleground for global technology giants such as Alibaba, Tencent Holdings Ltd, JD.com, Alphabet Inc's Google and SoftBank, particularly in ride-hailing, online payments and e-commerce.

Competition for Grab is heating up with Indonesian rival Go-Jek also expanding in the region. REUTERS

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