Uber Eats to quit Hong Kong after five years

A photograph arranged as an illustration in Brenchley, south-east England on August 18, 2020 shows the Uber Eats app on a smart phone. (Photo by BEN STANSALL / AFP)

HONG KONG, China (AFP) – Online food delivery platform Uber Eats announced on Tuesday it will quit Hong Kong at the end of 2021, ending five years of a battle for a share of the competitive food delivery market.

Uber announced the “difficult decision” in an online statement, which gave no reason for why it was winding down operations.

The company said it would now redouble its commitment to its ride-sharing in Hong Kong, a business that remains in a legal grey area.

Launched in 2016, Uber Eats was a latecomer to Hong Kong’s food delivery sector where Foodpanda and Deliveroo had a head start and have since become the two dominant players.

Foodpanda logo

According to data platform Measurable AI, Uber Eats managed only five percent market share compared with Deliveroo’s 44 percent and Foodpanda’s 51 percent.

Hong Kong was one of the first international cities where Uber’s core ride-share business set up shop as it rapidly expanded outside the United States.

In a city with a reputation for less than accommodating taxi drivers who often refuse rides and only accept cash, the app became a major success with many Hong Kongers.

But Uber has faced staunch opposition from local taxi groups and a government that has declined to legalise the ride-share industry.

Uber signage is seen as an employee sits in the entrance of the ride-hailing giant’s office in Hong Kong on March 10, 2017. – Uber hit back at Hong Kong authorities on March 10 after five of its drivers were found guilty of operating without proper licences, in yet another blow to the ride-hailing giant. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP)

In 2018, a group of 24 Uber drivers were convicted and fined for carrying passengers without a hire-car permit and their appeal was dismissed two years later.

Uber continues to operate and police enforcement is patchy with periodic crackdowns.

The platform has begun including taxis and earlier this year it bought up local app HK Taxi, a move it said it hoped would lead to legalisation of its operations.

On its seventh anniversary in Hong Kong last month, Uber said it had 216,000 registered drivers in the city who accounted for more than 25 percent of its global business.