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SoftBank investment is a long-awaited piece of good news for Uber

Uber app on a smartphone.
It’s been a rough year for Uber. From a string of scandals to the departure of CEO Travis Kalanick, to an ongoing legal battle with Waymo over self-driving car tech, the company has taken a beating. But with just a few days to go in 2017, Uber just received some really good news.

A much-discussed investment from Japan’s SoftBank Group is moving ahead, The Wall Street Journal reports. The ridesharing company’s investors and employees tendered shares equal to about 20 percent of the company on Thursday, December 28, the paper said, citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter.

SoftBank will initially limit the stake it acquires to 15 percent in a tender offer that values Uber at $48 billion, according to the report. That’s a roughly 30 percent discount from Uber’s most recent valuation, which put the value of the company at $70 billion. Nonetheless, the Uber employees who cash out are about to get very rich. They will be able to sell their stock at about $33 a share, Recode noted. As part of the deal, SoftBank will invest at least $1 billion into Uber, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Uber’s board will add six members, including two from SoftBank. The terms of the deal also reportedly call for corporate reforms and greater voting rights for all investors. These changes are expected to end the infighting that has gone on since Kalanick resigned as CEO in June. Kalanick still sits on Uber’s board and Uber investor Benchmark has engaged in a protracted battle to get Kalanick to give up his remaining influence.

While Uber has grown massively over the past few years and ridesharing is viewed by many as the most important transportation trend of the near future, the company has been accused of everything from covering up a major data breach to using software to circumvent government regulators. Much of this has been tied to a toxic corporate culture created by Kalanick. Uber appointed former Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to replace him in September, but SoftBank’s investment may be the first true sign of the company’s turnaround.

SoftBank is betting big that Uber can clean up its act. The Japanese firm already owns stakes in other ridesharing companies, giving Uber not only cash but also connections that could help it in overseas markets, where the company has been challenged by various rivals. After a year of taking punches, Uber might finally be ready to throw some.

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Stephen Edelstein
Stephen is a freelance automotive journalist covering all things cars. He likes anything with four wheels, from classic cars…
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