By Aradhana Aravindan
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Ride-hailing firm Grab expects to raise $2.5 billion to spend extending its lead over Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] and expanding into financial services, in the latest injection of funds into Southeast Asia's burgeoning tech scene.
Chinese peer Didi Chuxing and Japan's SoftBank Group Corp <9984.T> will contribute most of the money, which a person close to the Singapore-based firm said would value it at $6 billion.
The investment would be the latest in a Southeast Asian tech startup as major companies seek growth in the region's huge developing economies with young, tech-savvy demographics.
Chinese social media firm Tencent Holdings Ltd <0700.HK> put up to $150 million into Grab's Indonesian peer Go-Jek, sources said this month, while in June, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd <BABA.N> spent an additional $1 billion to raise its stake in Singapore-based e-tailer Lazada.
Grab's fresh fundraising is "a real endorsement of the potential and promise" of Southeast Asia's startup community, said Dane Anderson, a vice president at researcher Forrester.
Didi and SoftBank are already investors in Grab and other ride-hailing services globally. The pair will add $2 billion, and with $500 million from others, the fundraising will be Southeast Asia's biggest-ever single round of financing, Grab said on Monday.
"With their support, Grab will achieve an unassailable market lead in ride-sharing, and build on this to make GrabPay the payment solution of choice for Southeast Asia," Anthony Tan, group chief executive officer and Grab co-founder, said in a statement.
Grab operates private car, motorcycle, taxi and carpooling services across seven countries with 1.1 million drivers. It said it has a market share of 95 percent in third-party taxi-hailing and 71 percent in private vehicle hailing in Southeast Asia.
But its share could be under threat as San Francisco-based Uber, the world's largest ride-hailing service, is expected to increase its focus on the region after it folded its China business into Didi last year. Earlier this month, Uber also agreed to combine its Russian ride-sharing business with Yandex NV <YNDX.O>, the "Google of Russia."
Grab said it plans to expand its research and development expertise and look for any strategic investment opportunities.
Building on soaring user numbers of its Grab ride-hailing app and GrabPay function, the firm aims to transform into a consumer technology firm that also offers loans, electronic money transfer and money-market funds.
As part of that ambition, the five-year-old startup bought Indonesian payment service Kudo earlier this year.
"The heterogeneity of the banking system, multiple competitors in each country, and multiple regulations to meet are barriers to success," said analyst Rushabh Doshi at researcher Canalys.
"However, given no single payment solution has been able to work across all Southeast Asian markets, Grab stands a good chance of building market share via its ride-sharing business model, and then extending the payments to other adjunct businesses," he said.
Investors in Grab's previous fundraising include sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp [CIC.UL], hedge fund Coatue Management LLC, venture capital firm GGV Capital, and Vertex Ventures Holdings - a subsidiary of Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings (Pte) Ltd [TEM.UL].
(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Christopher Cushing)