China’s Ofo plans to take over running of Hong Kong’s GoBee Bike

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 April, 2018, 6:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 April, 2018, 7:33am

Ofo, the Beijing-based dockless bicycle-rental company, plans to take over the operations of Hong Kong-based GoBee Bike, according to people familiar with the matter.

Under the proposed plan, Ofo will take over the running of GoBee Bike’s operations and keep its brand unchanged for the near future, said the sources, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. The talks are preliminary and a final agreement may not be reached, the sources said, without disclosing any financial details.

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Ofo declined to comment. Calls to GoBee Bike’s general line went straight to voice mail. Raphael Cohen, GoBee Bike CEO, did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment sent to his LinkedIn account. 

GoBee Bike is Hong Kong’s first bike-sharing service, and launched with some 400 smart bikes in the western New Territories, with users able to unlock them by scanning a QR code with their mobile phones. Unlike existing bike rental services, users do not have to pick up and drop the bicycles at designated locations.

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The company beat a retreat from Europe after incurring mass thefts and vandalism. In its home city, the company’s bright green bicycles have also been subject to damage and found submerged in rivers.

GoBee Bike counts among its investors Grishin Robotics and the Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund, a non-profit initiative by Alibaba Group, the parent company of the South China Morning Post. 

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Ofo last month announced it secured US$866 million in a new round of funding led by Alibaba. The Hangzhou-based company declined to comment.

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It makes sense for Ofo and GoBee Bike to be in collaboration talks as there are quite a few bike-sharing companies in the Hong Kong market, and given both companies are in the Alibaba ecosystem, one of the people said.
A combination should benefit the users of both companies in Hong Kong if they can pool their resources to better serve their users in different areas, the person said.

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The bike sharing market in China has undergone significant consolidation, with more than 20 start-ups going bust as of February, according to the country’s Transport Ministry. Ofo and Mobike together account for 90 per cent of the market, according to research firm Cheetah Global Think Tank. 

Mobike was recently acquired by Meituan-Dianping, one of China’s biggest providers of on-demand services.

--With additional reporting from Li Tao