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Bike-sharing services

China’s Meituan buys bike-sharing firm Mobike for US$2.7 billion in mobility push 

Meituan-Dianping, one of the world’s most valuable start-ups, is pushing into mobility-related services as it expands its offerings for its 320 million annual active buyers. 

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2018, 9:36am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2018, 1:40pm

Meituan-Dianping, China’s largest provider of on-demand services from food-delivery to ride-hailing, trumpeted its ambitions to push deep into mobility by acquiring Mobike, the country’s biggest bicycle-sharing firm. 

The two companies confirmed the acquisition on Wednesday in a joint statement, saying they would be in a better position to fulfill their mission of making people “eat better and live better”. A person briefed on the terms said Meituan is paying US$2.7 billion for Mobike.

Mobike will operate as an independent entity and brand after the takeover. Meituan CEO Wang Xing will become chairman of the board at Mobike, with Wang Xiaofeng remaining as CEO. The other two senior executives of Mobike, Hu Weiwei and Xia Yiping, will remain president and chief technology officer, respectively.

“Mobike will help Meituan customers to go to restaurants, go back home and travel around, becoming the best connection in forming a closed-loop shopping experience,” Wang said in an internal employee memo later published on Meituan’s WeChat account. Hu Weiwei, a co-founder of Mobike, said in a WeChat post that “it is a new beginning” and that there’s “huge space for imagination” to work with Meituan. 

China’s sharing unicorns get big as consumers take to renting

China’s internet companies are expanding beyond their traditional confines as they seek to cross-sell products and services to their users.  Meituan is the world’s fourth largest unicorn with a valuation of US$30 billion, behind Xiaomi and above Airbnb in the ranking, according to CB Insights.

Meituan started off as a group-buying portal, before it merged with Dianping, a restaurant recommendation site. The combined entity is now pushing into food delivery and recently introduced ride-hailing in several Chinese cities. 

The deal comes amid the further consolidation of the bicycle-sharing industry in China and Meituan’s ramped up effort to expand into the country’s transportation-on-demand sector.

Bicycle-sharing has took off in late 2016 in China with dozens of startups placing millions of two-wheelers on city sidewalks, funded by venture capital money.

At stake is an industry that is potentially worth about 24 billion yuan (US$3.8 billion) by 2019, according to market research firm iResearch. Beyond the rental revenue and prospects for advertising, bike-sharing companies are also seen by Chinese tech giants as effective tools to promote mobile payments and to collect user data that in theory can be analysed for consumer patterns useful for a broader internet-enabled transportation industry that involves ride-hailing and the rental business of cars, motorbike and bicycles.

The acquisition will give Mobike a bigger backer in Meituan as it pursues market dominance in bicycle sharing against its competitor Ofo, according to Zhao Xiang, an analyst at Beijing-based consultancy Analysys.

“The tie-up with Mobike is also expected to help Meituan gain more customers data to help its push into transportation,” Zhao said. 

Mobike raised US$600 million last June in a financing round led by Tencent, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Meituan-Mobike combination.  Mobike’s chief competitor Ofo is backed by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, which owns the South China Morning Post.  Ofo said it did not have a comment for now, when asked how the Meituan-Mobike acquisition will affect its strategy. Alibaba also did not immediately comment.

China’s sharing economy charges, pedals and bounces into overdrive

The purchase of Mobike will add bicycle-sharing to Meituan’s suite of services for its 320 million annual active buyers. In October 2017, Meituan-Dianping closed its Series C financing round, raising US$4.1 billion for future investment, according to a company statement. The number of hotel room bookings on Meituan’s platform exceeded 200 million in 2017 and the firm signed a global partnership with resorts chain Club Med to provide a one-stop vacation booking service.

-With additional reporting by Celia Chen and Zen Soo