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Uber's Mideast business Careem sees speedier-than-expected recovery

DUBAI (Reuters) - Uber Technologies Inc-owned UBER.N Middle East business Careem is seeing its ride service recover more quickly than expected from the coronavirus crisis, while its delivery business is larger than before the pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: Careem CEO Mudassir Sheikha shows the logo of the company's delivery service Careen NOW on his mobile at the company headquarters in Dubai, UAE December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Satish Kumar/File Photo

Careem, which mainly operates in the Middle East, had originally forecast that its ride service would recover at the end of 2021, but now expects it to rebound earlier in the year with some markets already close to pre-COVID levels.

“We are seeing a strong recovery in the rides business and we are seeing a pretty significant acceleration in the deliveries business,” Careem CEO Mudassir Sheikha told Reuters.

“The delivery business is significantly larger than what it was pre-COVID and continues to grow quite strongly, double digit month on month,” he said.

Careem, which says it has 1.7 million drivers in 13 countries, has said it has been encouraged by a better than expected pickup in demand as coronavirus restrictions ease.

Uber bought Careem last year for $3.1 billion. Its businesses include ride hailing services and delivery, which includes take-away food, and third-party bill payment services.

Dubai-headquartered Careem on Thursday told staff who do not need to be in the office to work remotely on a permanent basis.

The pandemic had been a “forced pilot” for remote working, during which business performance and employee productivity had increased, Sheikha said.

Careem employs more than 1,300 office staff in 14 different countries, including 500 employees in Dubai.

The company expects to save 20-30% of real estate costs as it downsizes its offices, and Sheikha said he hoped the remote working policy will make Careem a more attractive employer and allow the company to hire people from around the world.

Careem is focused on growing in existing markets, rather than expanding into new countries, Sheikha said.

Reporting by Alexander Cornwell. Editing by Jane Merriman

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