Ofo loses bicycle-sharing licence in Singapore

Ofo had been operating in Singapore since early 2017 and once had more than 90,000 bikes deployed here. However, its licence was suspended in February after it failed to meet regulatory requirements. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Beleaguered bike-sharing firm ofo has lost its licence to operate in Singapore, after failing to provide enough justification for why its licence should not be cancelled.

The Chinese firm, whose licence had been suspended since mid-February, received a notice of intention to cancel its licence from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on April 3.

The LTA notice gave ofo up to 14 days to make written representations regarding the decision.

In an update on Monday (April 22), the authority said: "As ofo has not provided LTA with sufficient justifications on why its licence should not be cancelled, LTA cancelled ofo's bicycle-sharing operating licence on 22 April.

"Ofo will not be able to offer dockless bicycle-sharing services in public places in Singapore without this licence."

Unlicensed operators can face a fine of up to $10,000 and/or a jail term of up to six months, with a further fine of $500 for each day the offence continues after conviction.

Ofo had been operating in Singapore since early 2017 and once had more than 90,000 bikes deployed here, according to a former employee.

Things had looked rosy for the firm when it secured US$866 million (S$1.17 billion) in March last year from backers including Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group.

But reports emerged late last year that ofo was battling "immense" cashflow problems and that it had considered disbanding as an option.

Its licence was suspended in February this year after it failed to meet regulatory requirements, such as failing to implement a QR code-based parking system that would allow its bicycles to be parked only within specified areas.

It was later given until March 28 to meet these requirements, as the firm had told the LTA that it was in the "advanced stages of negotiation" to partner another party to resume operations and fulfil the conditions.

But despite the deadline extension, ofo still failed to comply with regulations.

The licence cancellation leaves Mobike, Anywheel, SG Bike and industry newcomer Moov Technology as the remaining bike-sharing operators in Singapore.

Mobike, which has a licence to run 25,000 bikes, last month announced its decision to withdraw from the Singapore market. The move comes as part of its plans to "rationalise" operations in South-east Asia, according to a spokesman of its parent company Meituan Dianping.

SG Bike currently operates a fleet of 3,000 bicycles, while Anywheel was earlier this month awarded a licence to run a fleet of 10,000 bicycles, up from its previous cap of 1,000.

Meanwhile, Moov was granted a sandbox licence earlier this month to operate 1,000 two-wheelers here.

Experts have said that the bike-sharing industry has struggled to find a sustainable business model, with many firms worldwide operating at massive losses that were previously offset by cash-rich backers.

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