Honestbee hit with winding-up order from Singapore High Court

Singapore’s High Court has issued a winding-up order for failed grocery delivery company Honestbee in a case filed by creditor Benjamin Lim Jia-Rong, according to a notice published in The Straits Times.

The public notice asked that all creditors of Honestbee file proof of debt with the liquidator, Gary Loh Weng Fatt and Leow Quek Shiong, via BDO Advisory.

When reached by phone, Honestbee CEO Ong Lay Ann told DealStreetAsia the winding-up order is for the Singapore operations, and he wasn’t aware of the liquidators’ plans for the other subsidiaries. The company is under a liquidation process and a creditors’ meeting is expected to take place soon.

Plaintiff’s solicitors, Lee & Lee, did not immediately return DealStreetAsia’s emailed request for comment.

The decision was likely the final nail for the troubled startup that failed before its main business lines of grocery and food delivery became a necessity during the pandemic.

During its heyday, the Singaporean grocery startup was present in multiple markets across Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangkok, Philippines and Japan.

In April, Lim had filed a winding-up application against Honestbee. A Business Times report at the time said Honestbee owed Lim around $3.8 million from an unsecured loan, which made him junior to secured creditor Formation Group’s $4-million claim.

Honestbee lost court protection from creditors for its $230 million of debt on March 26 after the Singapore court rejected its request for more time to convene a meeting with creditors.

Honestbee had a negative equity position of around $210 million as of mid-2019, and only around $14 million in property, plant and equipment, as well as around $650,000 in cash.

Since August 2019, Honestbee has shut down the bulk of its delivery operations, and its grocery store Habitat that the company had previously described as a possible seed to rebuild the business, shuttered in February.

In March of this year, the startup alleged breaches of fiduciary duties by the former CEO and a former director and said it had sent letters of demand. One of those directors has rejected those allegations.

In addition, the Business Times had reported earlier this year that Honestbee had about $260,000 of art in storage, but that the company was still trying to determine the ownership of all of those pieces of art.

In mid-March, as many as 77 former Honestbee employees had filed claims with the Ministry of Manpower saying their salaries hadn’t been paid.

The Ministry of Manpower did not immediately respond to DealStreetAsia’s emailed query on whether Honestbee had paid the salaries in arrears.

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.