Honestbee’s ex-employees file claims for unpaid salaries: Report

As many as 77 ex-employees of troubled Singapore grocery delivery startup Honestbee have filed claims with the Ministry of Manpower, saying their salaries weren’t paid, the Straits Times reported Sunday.

Earlier this month, Honestbee said it laid off around 80 per cent of its staff or roughly 100 employees in the city-state as it came under pressure of a capital crunch amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. The startup said at the time it made a strategic decision to reduce its staff count, particularly in non-core sectors such as its brick-and-mortar grocery store Habitat.

MOM didn’t immediately respond to DealStreetAsia’s request for comment, which was sent outside of office hours.

The company has previously said it would delay paying salaries and Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions for staff until it obtained further funding, the Straits Times report said. MOM has said salaries for February and the CPF contributions for January and February were delinquent, according to the report.

Employers who don’t pay salaries can be fined up to S$15,000 and/or jailed for up to six months, the report said.

Honestbee is no longer operational regionally. During its heyday, the Singaporean grocery startup was present in multiple markets across Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangkok, Philippines and Japan.

Honestbee is yet to convince investors to put in some much-needed cash. The startup remains under interim court protection as it seeks to pass a scheme of arrangement to restructure itself out of some $230 million of debt. A “retail conglomerate” was reported to have considered injecting some $50 million into Honestbee, but has since stepped back due to the COVID-19 outbreak and restructuring concerns.

In January, Honestbee signed an agreement with multiple existing investors to receive about $7 million in capital to pay off its creditors in a cash and equity deal to clean up its balance sheet. These investors were FLK Holdings, a US incorporated company backed by Brian Koo, Formation Group Fund I, and Formation Group (Cayman) Fund I. Brian Koo is Honestbee’s former chairman and interim chief executive.

All three funds are linked to Koo. He is also Honestbee’s only secured creditor and belongs to the family, which controls South Korea tech giant, LG.

Little is known about the future direction of Honestbee’s Habitat, except that it will follow a quick-service restaurant (QSR) pizza concept and become a tech-enabled convenience store. Honestbee said that plans for this are still in its “very early stages”, with the convenience store focused on fast food service for takeaway. It will also likely tap on Honestbee’s existing technologies in payments and collection. Honestbee’s next court hearing on its restructuring will take place on 26 March 2020.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.