Singapore

oBike owes users $6.3m in deposits

Its chairman says he is willing to use his money to refund users

Even as oBike revealed that it owes about US$4.6 million (S$6.3 million) in deposits to users, town councils here have been taking action over its abandoned bicycles.

Founding investor and chairman Shi Yi, 29, told The Straits Times over the phone yesterday that the beleaguered bike-sharing firm is trying to raise money from shareholders to refund the deposits to users in Singapore.

Mr Shi told Lianhe Zaobao in a separate interview yesterday that more than 100,000 of its million users here are owed the deposit.

He said most of them are students who paid $19. The deposit for non-students was $49.

Asked when the deposits would be returned, he said "the sooner the better". But he also said oBike had applied for liquidation and stakeholders are still discussing related solutions.

"In any case, as long as the user wants to get the deposit back, we will try our best to repay it," he added.

Mr Shi, a Shanghai-born multi-millionaire who has a 23 per cent stake in oBike, said he was willing to use his own money to refund the deposit.

"The worst plan is that I am willing to use my shares to bear the cost," he told Zaobao.

The Chinese-founded oBike, which launched its Singapore operations in January last year, suddenly announced its exit on June 25, blaming new requirements under the Land Transport Authority (LTA) licensing regime for being too demanding.

The new LTA framework, announced in March, set standards such as capping the number of bicycles offered by each company, which also must pay a fee of $60 per bike deployed.

In addition, bike-sharing firms must ensure that users do not park the bicycles indiscriminately, a major grievance among the public.

The Business Times reported last week that oBike lost some $4.25 million last year.

LTA set a deadline of July 4 for oBike to remove its fleet of bicycles from around the island.

oBike said yesterday it had 70,000 bikes, far more than the 14,000 cited in recent reports.

Town councils told The Straits Times that they have been taking action to remove bicycles that are parked improperly.

Mr Vikram Nair, chairman of Sembawang Town Council, said: "There are still some bikes around, and I don't particularly see them being taken away. We are still waiting to see if the operator will claim them by July 4."

A Tampines Town Council spokesman said it was difficult to gauge if there were fewer oBikes in the estate, though they were still present as of yesterday.

Ang Mo Kio Town Council's Ang Hin Kee said there were 1,600 oBikes in the area as of last Saturday.

Around 40 per cent were parked improperly, and the town council removed them after the operator failed to do so despite reminders.

oBike already faces at least $120,000 in fines from town councils for indiscriminately parked bicycles, according to media reports.

Online news portal Today reported yesterday that oBike had been fined a total of $88,600 by the Bishan-Toa Payoh and Marine Parade town councils.

It added that about 170 offence notices from the Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council were pasted at oBike's abandoned office yesterday.

They were mostly for obstruction of bicycles at common areas and failure to remove illegally parked bikes.

oBike has 14 days from the date of notice to settle each fine, or face the possibility of legal action.

A Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council spokesman said some of the fines date as far back as November last year.

"These composition fines were imposed between November 2017 and February 2018 for indiscriminate parking of bikes... These are not new fines for non-removal of bikes by oBikes," he said.

Mr Shi told The Straits Times that oBike would not be able to meet tomorrow's deadline for removing its bikes but aimed to do so by the end of the week.

FOR MORE, READ THE STRAITS TIMES TODAY

Transport