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A few years after Chinese startups turned dockless bike-sharing into a tour de force, Hellobike is seeking up to $1 billion in additional funding to pedal ahead of the competition, sources tell Bloomberg.
Shanghai-based Hellobike is one of several decelerating players in the bike-sharing space, which is currently struggling with profitability. Ofo, which pioneered the idea, considered filing for bankruptcy last year after raising more than $2 billion from backers. It struggled to deal with challenges such as discarded bikes and stiff competition.
Meanwhile, another competitor, Mobike, has had its own share of financial troubles and is expected to pull back from overseas markets to curb ongoing losses.
Hellobike’s repeated pleas for new cash injections are indicative of a proxy war between its parent company, Ant Financial (itself the finance affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding Limited), and Meituan Dianping, which acquired Mobike for $2.7 billion in 2018. Both are locked in an intense fight for e-commerce customers even as declining profitability from their bike-share operations continue to ding their bottom lines.
Despite the market challenges, Hellobike has more than 200 million registered users and has managed to remain a standalone company thanks to repeated bids for new capital. The company sought out funding twice last year and co-founder Li Kaizhu has even declared plans to go public down the road.
Li said in an interview with Bloomberg that Hellobike has been the market leader, having captured 50% of the market share. He said the company, which is valued at around $5 billion, has demonstrated a winning business model that relies on revenue from daily bike rides and limits the number of bikes in circulation to avoid waste.
Ambreen Ali is a freelance writer and editor based in the New York City area who specializes in business and technology. She has 15 years of reporting experience, including covering Capitol Hill and reporting from South Asia.