By Eric Auchard and Costas Pitas
FRANKFURT/LONDON (Reuters) – Lyft, Uber’s closest U.S. rival in the taxi-hailing business, met repeatedly with officials from London’s transport regulator over the past year, a sign it may be targeting the city for international expansion.
Transport for London (TfL), which oversees taxi and private hire car operators, published details of the meetings with Lyft executives in response to a UK government freedom of information request in July.
If Lyft enters the London market Uber would face its first well-funded competitor in Europe when it is trying to overturn a decision by TfL not to renew its license. Lyft has raised around $2.6 billion in financing, including an investment round of $600 million in April, according to funding tracker Crunchbase.
Lyft’s investors include automaker General Motors <GM.N>.
London’s transport regulator on Friday said it would not renew Uber’s license to operate, citing the firm’s approach to reporting serious criminal offences and background checks on drivers.
Lyft has already signaled it is looking at expansion outside the United States. Chief Executive Logan Green told the Associated Press in August that Lyft planned to go international “in the not too distant future”.
A Lyft spokeswoman declined to comment on the timing of any expansion moves or the nature of Lyft meetings with London officials. It now operates ride services in more than 600 cities, covering as much as 95 percent of the U.S. population.
Four TfL officials met with Lyft’s Chief Strategy Officer Raj Kapoor and Michael Masserman, its director of international government relations, in December 2016. Three unnamed members of the Greater London Authority were also present, according to TfL documents. Lyft presented details of its business model in that meeting.
Subsequent follow-up-conversations took place between TfL’s Director of Transport Innovation Michael Hurwitz and Lyft executives Kapoor and Masserman over the phone in December and in January, TfL documents showed.
This was followed by another meeting between the three in New York in March.
“We regularly talk to companies around the world about innovation that could improve transport in London,” Hurwitz, said in a statement.
(Reporting by Eric Auchard and Costas Pitas. Editing by Jane Merriman)