Bike-sharing investors talk major merger

Bicycles from the bike-sharing companies Mobike and Ofo on the street in Shanghai on Feb 1, 2017.[Photo/VCG]

Whether China’s largest bike-sharing start-ups, Mobike and Ofo, will merge drew more attention in the second half of the year, with investors implying “yes” while managers said “no”.

An early investor in Ofo, Allen Zhu with GSR Ventures, said Saturday at a forum continuing to burn cash to compete in the bike-sharing market is meaningless for Mobike and Ofo and only results in a huge loss, adding that mergers are a complicated process. He also said where mergers are concerned investors, entrepreneurs, shareholders and users have to balance their interests and benefits, according to Securities Daily.

Zhu’s merger views have been reported in recent months, mentioning both Mobike and Ofo have grabbed a combined major market share, and with each well-matched in strength, only merger could bring profit.

Zhu’s comments echo those of another Ofo investor, Wang Gang. Wang expressed his support for the merger several times, adding Thursday that as an investor, he could barely do anything when a merger decision has to take many factors into consideration, AI Caijing reported.

As far as Mobike investors are concerned, Zhou Kui, a partner at Sequoia Capital China, was reported to say it is time to merge when each company has a stable market share and little room to expand in China. He added the resistance to a merger does not come from investors.

However, pushback may be found in the senior management of the two companies. Wang Xiaofeng, Mobike’s founder and chief executive, said in late November his company will never merge with Ofo. Dai Wei, CEO of Ofo, also denied the merger in public. But AI Caijing cited an Ofo employee as saying Dai has said internally that if there is a merge, it must be Ofo merging with Mobike.

As competition in China’s bike-sharing industry gets fiercer, the No 3 player by number of users, Hellobike, recently raised $350 million in its series-D1 round of financing from investors, including Alibaba’s financial arm Ant Financial.

Hellobike was acquired by the subsidiary of Changzhou Youon Public Bicycle System Co Ltd, China’s first listed bike-sharing company, in October.

As an early backer of Hellobike, GGV Capital told the South China Morning Post a merger between the top players in the country’s bike-sharing industry is probably inevitable, as it will ensure scale and put companies on a path to profitability.

Since Alibaba also joined fundraising for Ofo, Hans Tung, a managing partner at GGV Capital, said to the newspaper if one investor has invested in two firms, it will facilitate a merger to scale down the top three players into two.

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