Uber turns to China again, and this time to make bikes, scooters

A pedestrian checks a mobile device in front of the Uber Technologies Inc. headquarters building in San Francisco, California, U.S. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Two years after exiting China, Uber Technologies Inc. is putting feet back on the ground. Staff there, however, aren’t working on the ride-hailing company’s main business, but overseeing the creation of its bikes and scooters — Uber’s bet for its next consumer hit.

After buying Jump Bikes, a U.S. bike-rental service, Uber is set to unveil its own scooter, plunging into a chaotic new transit market. Uber is adding supply chain, recruiting and other personnel in southern China to work closely with the manufacturers of these devices, according to Rachel Holt, head of Uber’s New Mobility unit.

She also said the San Francisco-based company may launch these services in Asian countries, such as Japan, where Uber has limited operations because of regulatory reasons. “We absolutely have global aspirations here,” she said at an event on Friday in Hong Kong.

Those plans, however, won’t include mainland China anytime soon. Uber sold its operations there to Didi Chuxing in 2016 after suffering heavy losses. And China already hosts a thicket of e-bike companies in cutthroat competition. Holt admitted that Uber has no immediate plans for similar services in China.

Uber will continue to invest in the nation’s supply chain, Holt said, despite the mounting political costs. Both e-bikes and scooters are included in the Trump administration tariff list, adding a 25 percent tax on each component that Uber imports. Holt declined to name manufacturing partners, but suggested that Uber’s volume would be significant. “We have the potential to be a very, very large customer for them,” she said.

The executive also hinted that Uber’s new scooters will rely on a different assembler than those of rivals, such as Bird and Lime, whose scooters have sprung up overnight in U.S. cities. “Everyone is using the same scooter,” Holt said. “But it’s not being designed for the way it’s being used, and that’s why you’re seeing these scooters lasting for only a couple of months.”

Bloomberg

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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.