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Thailand’s Central Group Plans to Invest $200 Million in Ride-Hailing Giant Grab

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BANGKOK – Thailand’s Central Group, which controls Thailand’s biggest shopping mall and department store operator, plans to invest $200 million in ride-hailing giant Grab, people familiar with the matter said.

The deal seals a strategic partnership under which the conglomerate will help Grab expand its business in Thailand, said the people, who asked not to be named because the information is private. Central Group will invest in Grab’s Thai unit, one of the people said. Grab and Central Group representatives declined to comment.

With an empire that also includes hotels, supermarkets and restaurants, Central Group is counting on online growth to help drive sales. The company announced a $500 million joint venture with JD.com Inc. in 2017, teaming up with China’s second-largest e-commerce operator. Bloomberg first reported in September it was in talks to buy a significant minority stake in Grab’s local unit.

Grab, which bought out Uber Technologies Inc.’s business in Southeast Asia, is expanding beyond its roots as a ride-hailing app by adding services such as food delivery, payments and logistics. GrabFood is now available in six major Southeast Asian countries and GrabExpress, its logistics and goods delivery service, in 150 cities, according to the company.

The Singapore-based startup said this week it attracted more than $3 billion of investments in 2018 as part of its Series H funding round. Grab last year outlined ambitious fundraising plans and predicted that sales will double to $2 billion in 2019.

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