LTA: Bike-sharing firm Mobike to surrender Singapore licence
Chinese dockless bicycle-sharing firm Mobike applied to surrender its operator’s licence here on Monday (March 11), The New Paper has learnt.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) told TNP on Tuesday (March 12) it is assessing Mobike’s request, and will work with the company to ensure it has fully explored all options.
This includes its proposal to transfer existing assets or operations to existing licensees, so as to minimise impact to consumers.
Mobike has also withdrawn its prior application to increase its current maximum allowable fleet size of 25,000, as well as its application to operate an e-scooter sharing service, LTA added.
Said LTA’s spokesman: “LTA has emphasised to Mobike that if Mobike’s application to surrender its licence is granted, it must conduct a proper exit by removing all bicycles from public places, and provide refunds for user deposits and pre-paid credits in accordance with the company’s terms and conditions.”
Under the Parking Places Act, a bicycle-sharing licence may only be surrendered with the written consent of the LTA.
On Monday (March 11), media outlets had reported that Mobike will be pulling out from some of its Asian markets and is re-evaluating its other overseas business units.
Mobike is backed by Tencent Holding and was acquired last year by Beijing-based on-demand services company, Meituan-Dianping, for US$2.7 billion (S$3.7 billion).
The reports said at least 10 employees will be laid off as part of its restructuring plan.
Technology news site, TechCrunch, had also reported last Friday that Mobike’s Asia Pacific operations team, including employees and contractors in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, India and Australia, were let go.
Mobike’s impending exit marks the third major bike-sharing operator to face troubles here.
Fellow China-based bike-sharing firm Ofo, which is battling cash flow problems and was on the verge of bankruptcy, had its licence here suspended by the LTA last month for failing to meet regulations.
If it fails to clear its bicycles from public places by tomorrow, the firm backed by Chinese conglomerate Alibaba Group will have its licence cancelled.
It was reported in January that the company, originally granted a fleet of 25,000 two-wheelers, had laid off its operations team here.
In September last year, oBike went into liquidation, with 58,000 bicycles removed from public spaces.
Mobike’s exit now leaves just three bike-sharing operators left in Singapore, with a combined fleet size of 4,000 bikes.
Homegrown company SG Bike, the only one left with a full licence, has an approved fleet size of 3,000.
Grab had given up its sandbox bicycle-sharing licence last year.
Such a licence allows a maximum fleet of 1,000 and subjects more inexperienced operators to a subset of the full licence requirements.
This will just leave Anywheel and Qiqi Zhixiang as the two other sandbox operators.
Anywheel, which has applied for a full licence, has a fleet capped at 1,000.
Qiqi Zhixiang, which was given a maximum fleet size of just 500, has yet to deploy any bicycles as of January, The Straits Times reported, and its app is unavailable online.
National University of Singapore Business School’s Associate Professor Lawrence Loh told TNP while he does not see the bicycle-sharing industry coming to an end, he said Mobike’s impending exit marks the start of a real downturn.
Factors such as Singapore’s small market, LTA tightening its regulations and the rise of other first-mile and last-mile commuting options like personal mobility devices, have seen the demand for bike-sharing wane.
Prof Loh said: “While it is not unexpected, it is definitely a surprise to see that piece by piece, the bike-sharing companies in Singapore are calling it a day.
“In fact, it is very clear that some rationalisation is going on after the initial hype.”
He added that the main issue is that consumers, especially those who might have paid upfront deposits, are adequately refunded.
Said Prof Loh: “I think it is very important that (Mobike) does not just scoot off and withdraw. Then everybody is left in the lurch.”