Grab Holdings has agreed to a US$39.6 billion (RM163.5 billion) merger deal with US-based special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Altimeter Growth Corp, paving the way for an initial public offering (IPO) and NASDAQ listing later this year, under the ticker GRAB. The deal is also a record-setting one, surpassing Lucid Motors’ US$24 billion (RM99.1 billion) deal struck with a SPAC earlier this year.

The merger would make the ride-hailing and food-delivery provider the first Southeast Asian tech startup to go public through a SPAC. It would also give it funds to expand. Grab, whose valuation has more than doubled over the past 18 months, will receive about $4.5 billion (RM18.6 billion) in cash as part of the deal.

The company, which began life in Malaysia as a taxi-hailing app provider in June 2012, expects its addressable market to expand to more than US$180 billion (RM743.4 billion) by 2025, up significantly from US$52 billion (RM14.8 billion) in 2020. Grab, which is now based in Singapore and has business operations in eight countries, recorded $12.5 billion (RM51.6 billion) in gross revenue last year.

As news reports indicate, the deal is a remarkable win for Grab and its early investors, which include Japan’s SoftBank Group and China’s Didi Chuxing. Its business was severely impacted last year by the Covid-19 pandemic, and it had been negotiating a possible merger with Indonesia’s Gojek last year. However, discussions ultimately collapsed sometime in December, and Gojek began talks with Indonesian tech company Tokopedia.

Grab CEO Anthony Tan was especially chuffed about the deal. “I remember years ago when we were talking to investors, some folks didn’t even know where Southeast Asia was on a map,” he said in an interview. “The world is seeing the potential of Southeast Asia and how exciting this region is.”