Meituan , operator of China’s largest on-demand services platform, reported a wider net loss in the three months to December from a year ago, as revenue slowed for the third consecutive quarter amid Beijing’s pressure to lower merchant fees and boost protection for delivery couriers . The Beijing-based company posted a net loss of 5.3 billion yuan (US$832 million) in the fourth quarter, 137.9 per cent higher than its 2.2 billion yuan loss in the same period in 2020, after it was slapped with a US$530 million antitrust fine by the government in October. Still, that was less than analysts’ consensus estimate of a 7.2 billion yuan loss for the quarter. Revenue last quarter grew 30.6 per cent to a better-than-expected 49.5 billion yuan, up from 37.9 billion yuan a year earlier, on the back of its food delivery, new initiatives and others business segment, and in-store, hotel and travel businesses operation. “As we entered 2022, we still faced challenges from Covid control measures and weakening consumption environment,” Meituan said in a statement on Friday. “We will commit our support in promoting ‘rural revitalisation’, and will bring high quality products and services to tens of thousands of villages in China,” the company said. “In addition, we will continue to create a wide range of job opportunities while placing particular emphasis on the welfare and needs of flexible workers. Particularly, for our food delivery couriers, we will always take their rights and interests as a top priority.” Hong Kong-listed Meituan’s shares were down 8.16 per cent to close at HK$135 on Friday. Its shares have fallen from their peak of HK$460 in mid-February last year amid a broader decline in the stock market. The company swung to a loss of 23.5 billion yuan for the whole of 2021, compared with a 4.7 billion yuan net profit in 2020, even though its total revenue rose 56 per cent to 179.1 billion. Apart from the antitrust fine, the company also dealt with hefty increases in food delivery-related costs as well as higher selling and marketing expenses. That US$10 million-per-day loss in 2021 reflected the mounting regulatory pressure Meituan faced last year. Meituan, Ele.me, other on-demand delivery firms face dim prospects amid Beijing scrutiny Meituan, which had 5.27 million delivery couriers that earned income through the platform at the end of December, was under pressure from Chinese labour authorities to provide gig economy workers with proper welfare coverage and a fair share of commissions. Meanwhile, China’s economic planning commission ordered platforms like Meituan to lower fees they charge merchants, which include restaurants, in a move to protect the real economy. “Most of the merchants eligible for commission reduction and exemption were at the bottom of the platforms’ merchant list,” said Jamie Chen, an analyst at Third Bridge. “Commission reduction and exemption policies won’t greatly affect these platforms’ profits.” The percentage of commission fee in food delivery services, compared with the total revenue of this category was around 30 per cent in the fourth quarter. In May last year, Meituan co-founder Wang Xing sparked a social media frenzy and a sell-off of the firm’s stock after posting a millennium-old Chinese poem seen as an unsubtle jab at the government.