Careem will eventually IPO but not yet, co-founder says

  • Careem, Uber's rival in the Middle East, will eventually go public, but not at this time, Magnus Olsson told CNBC.
  • Olsson said that while an initial public offering would be the ultimate goal, it's not a top priority right now.
  • Careem has focused on expanding into new markets and recently launched in Iraq.
A car travels past a Careem Inc. cafe on Murree Road in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017.
Asad Zaidi | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A car travels past a Careem Inc. cafe on Murree Road in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017.

Careem, Uber's rival in the Middle East, will eventually go public, but not at this time, Magnus Olsson, co-founder of the ride-hailing service, has told CNBC.

Bloomberg reported last month that the start-up was in talks with investment banks about an IPO.

Olsson said that while this would be the ultimate goal, it's not a top priority right now.

"I think as our CEO... would say, you know our ambition is to build an amazing organization and institution in the region. And the way to do that is to stay independent," Olsson told CNBC in a TV interview filmed earlier this week and which will air Thursday.

"And, obviously at some point I think that the natural way to go would be to go for public listing and we would be very excited about doing that. Now that is not something that we are thinking about every day right now, but you know our focus is on building the business and serving our customers."

Careem, which was founded in 2012, operates in 13 countries across the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. It has big backers including Germany's Daimler and Saudi Arabia's Kingdom Holding, the firm owned by billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. Both firms were part of a $150 million investment round last year.

The company competes with Uber in the region and is able to battle its deeper-pocketed U.S. rival through a better understanding of the local market.

"Careem are really giving the global players a hard fight," Olsson said. "And I think it comes from really understanding the customers and the captains better, the local nuances, and being able to adapt even faster."

Careem calls its drivers "captains."

The Dubai-based firm has been expanding across the region. Last month, it launched its service in Baghdad, Iraq. Olsson said that there are challenges on the ground in places like Iraq but the company is working on creating a smooth experience and the reception has been "amazing."

"So, we have seen tremendous growth. (But) obviously operations on the ground can be challenging, so we are doing everything we can to make sure we can deliver the same quality experience that we're doing in other countries and markets," he said.