China’s MoBike Shutting Some International Operations

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Chinese bike-sharing startup Mobike is shutting down operations in Australia and South and Southeast Asia, months after rival Ofo began winding down its international division.

“Mobike’s international business is undergoing rationalization to improve efficiency,” the company said in a statement Monday. “This will result in the closure of some markets, particularly in certain Asia countries.”

In recent years, Mobike, Ofo and other startups flooded Chinese cities with bright, candy-colored two-wheelers unlocked and tracked using smartphone apps. Two years ago, Mobike began expanding into overseas markets, bringing its signature orange bikes first to Singapore, then Europe, the Americas, and other countries and regions.

Technology publication TechCrunch said on Friday that Mobike would shutter all its international operations. Mobike spokesman Steve Milton called the reports “exaggerated,” saying the closures were limited to Southeast Asia, specifically India, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia.

“It does not relate to other operations of Mobike International,” Milton said. “We are continuing to look for strategic partners, particularly in Europe and Latin America.”

Three Mobike employees familiar with the closures said they were told by senior executives that the company planned to eventually shutter all its international divisions, not just Southeast Asia and Australia. Two of the employees said the reason for the closures wasn’t poor market performance, but because of Mobike’s acquisition last year by Chinese online services giant Meituan Dianping.

“Meituan doesn’t have any overseas business agenda or experience,” said one employee, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid retaliation from superiors. “They just want to be operating in China, which they can control.”

The closures come on the heels of turmoil in the Chinese bike-sharing industry.

Chinese state media once touted shared bikes as a technology in which China was surging ahead in the new global economy, along with high-speed rail, mobile payments and e-commerce. But following huge investments, the business turned into a brutal cost-cutting war. Last year, Mobike’s largest competitor, Ofo, said it was considering filing for bankruptcy as millions of users applied to get their deposits back.

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