Uber picks new head for Indonesia business

JAKARTA, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Uber Technologies Inc unveiled on Wednesday a new head of its Indonesian operations in a market where the online taxi company faces cutthroat competition, regulatory uncertainty and a reported U.S. probe into whether it broke bribery laws.

Monika Rudijono, who has a marketing background and is the first Indonesian president of Uber in Southeast Asia's biggest economy, starts in January, the company said in a statement.

"Uber's technology serves millions of riders and drivers across Indonesia, and together with a strong and growing team, we remain committed to continuing our investment in people, product innovation and partnerships across the archipelago," Brooks Entwistle, chief business officer, Uber Asia Pacific, said in the statement.

Rudijono, who currently heads advertising and marketing agency Grey Group Indonesia, will take over from an interim head at Uber. Uber has seen a number of high-level management departures since former CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick was forced out after a series of boardroom controversies and other regulatory battles in multiple U.S. states and around the world.

The company has also been reviewing its Asia operations after notifying U.S. authorities about payments made by staff to police officers in Indonesia, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters in September.

Uber has said it is cooperating with a preliminary investigation led by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) into whether its managers violated U.S. laws against bribery of foreign officials, specifically the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Bloomberg quoted people with knowledge of the matter as saying that an Uber employee in Jakarta made multiple, small payments to police on the understanding that Uber would be permitted to continue operating from an office located in a non-business zone.

Uber fired the employee and placed the head of the Indonesian business who approved the expense report on a leave of absence, Bloomberg said, citing the sources. The head has since left the company, it reported.

Uber declined further comment on the U.S. probe and a Jakarta police spokesman said he had no knowledge of the issue.

With a population of more than 250 million people, Indonesia is an attractive market for online taxis, but Uber has faced stiff competition from Indonesia's GO-JEK - backed by private equity firms KKR & Co LP and Warburg Pincus LLC - and Singapore-based Grab.

There has also been regulatory uncertainty and protests by taxi drivers against online apps that have at times become violent.

(Reporting by Ed Davies; Additional reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Editing by Christopher Cushing)