Uber Raises Media Profile Ahead of Make-or-Break Brazil Vote

(Bloomberg) -- Uber Technologies Inc. has stepped up lobbying efforts in Brazil ahead of a key Congress vote on legislation that could make or break its business model in one of its largest markets.

Uber ads flooded social media and its drivers protested in several Brazilian cities as Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi told Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper that plans to expand in Latin America’s largest economy depend on legislation being drafted in Congress.

Brazil’s lower house of Congress is expected to vote whether to uphold stricter rules on car-hailing apps. The original bill was watered down last year when the Senate eliminated requirements that could make it more difficult for car-hailing companies to operate, such as using taxi-style license plates.

Lobbying Hard

Black banners with the Uber logo hang from the ceiling of Brasilia’s airport, where most federal legislators landed on Tuesday as they returned from their home states. After meeting representatives of the ride-sharing companies, lower house chief Rodrigo Maia said that a vote would take place on Wednesday, adding that he was supportive of a text that ensures the viability of their business model.

"We can’t have national regulation that impedes these apps, it would be a step back for Brazil," he said.

Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are the busiest cities globally for Uber and Khosrowshahi told Folha that it billed half a billion rides in the past six months alone in Brazil. Indicative of the increasingly competitive environment, China’s Didi Chuxing said in January it would buy Brazilian ride-hailing company 99 Taxis.

Uber ads on social media warned that lower house legislators could still reverse progress made in the Senate, stripping half a million drivers of income and nearly 20 million users of their right to choose.

President Michel Temer can still veto all or part of the bill coming out of the lower house.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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