SoftBank in talks to invest in Alibaba-backed HelloChuxing: Report

Photo: Hellobike website

Alibaba-backed bicycle-rental startup HelloChuxing, formerly known as Hellobike, is reportedly in talks with major Japanese investor SoftBank for a possible investment, according to sources interviewed by The Information.

Details of the ongoing talks were not disclosed, including the amount that SoftBank is investing and how the investment will value HelloChuxing, which announced raising $321 million in a funding round from Ant Financial in June.

The round earned the Shanghai-based startup a valuation of $1.47 billion. Its previous investors include Ant Financial, Fosun Group, WM Motor, Chengwei Capital, and GGV Capital.

Hellobike rebranded itself in September as part of its bid to expand operations beyond bike-sharing. It also disclosed that it will partner with ride-hailing providers Shouqi Limousine & Chauffeur and digital mapmaker AutoNavi Software but provided no further details on the contours of these planned tie-ups.

In October last year, Hellobike merged with Shanghai-listed Changzhou Youon Public Bicycle System to better compete against its rivals.

Youon, which manages city-run bike-rental systems with fixed return docks distributed on major roads, has been struggling to compete with tech-based bike-sharing platforms like Mobike and Ofo.

DEALSTREETASIA earlier reported that the company’s foray into ride-hailing is bound to force HelloChuxing to change tack. With its bike-sharing operations, it has so far steered clear of China’s largest cities, where competition from deep-pocketed rivals Ofo and Mobike has forced players such as Bluegogo to shutter operations.

HelloChuxing claims to have over 200 million registered users in smaller towns and cities.

The deal, if it pushes through, will add to SoftBank’s investments in the ride-sharing space. In October, the Japanese investment firm was reported to be closing in on a deal to invest about $500 million in Grab.

SoftBank first bought a stake worth $250 million in Grab in 2014 and has invested more subsequently. Sources said SoftBank and Grab are in advanced talks to finalise terms of the latest investment and Grab’s latest funding round is likely to be completed in a few weeks.

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