Uber is on the verge of surrendering its business in South-East Asia to local champion Grab. According to the Financial Times, the two ride hailing apps are close to signing a deal that would result in the US-based company pulling back in ASEAN in exchange for a substantial stake in Grab. A stake of over 20% has been mentioned.

The FT report says that the move has been under discussion for months and comes just weeks after Japanese technology super investor SoftBank, which is Uber’s biggest investor and 30% shareholder of Grab, urged Uber to focus on core markets. This development mirrors the deal Uber struck with Chinese rival Didi Chuxing in 2016. Then, Uber quit China and received a 20% stake in its rival in return.

According to FT, new Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has been working to clean up the company’s image and show that the Uber has a path to profitability. Expending energy and funds in faraway markets with strong local rivals won’t help the latter.

It’s pretty clear who’s pulling the strings on this one. Last year, SoftBank and Didi were part of a group that put US$2.5 billion (RM9.77 billion) into Grab in a funding round that valued the Singapore-based company at US$6 billion (RM23.45 billion). In December, the cash-rich Japanese firm was among the companies that invested US$4 billion (RM15.64 billion) in Didi, a week before it bought more than 17% of Uber for about US$9 billion (RM35.18 billion).

SoftBank’s has hinted at its vision for Uber previously. Rajeev Misra, a board director of SoftBank, told FT earlier this year that the company should reduce losses in non-core territories and concentrate on growth in the US and Europe, Latin America and Australia.

The Uber-Grab deal is expected to be finalised later this month. Once done, focus will shift to Uber’s position in India, where it is locked in battle with Ola, which is also backed by puppet master SoftBank.

Soon, there won’t be any need for Malaysian consumers to open two apps to compare prices, as the local ride-hailing game will be monopolised by Grab. There would be less incentive for a sole player to offer promotions too, one would think.