(Yicai Global) Aug. 10 -- Ofo, the world’s biggest independent bike-sharing provider, has withdrawn from yet another overseas market as it pins its hopes on success in its home country, China.
The firm, officially Beijing Bikelock Technology, entered South Korea less than a year ago but operations there are already grinding to a stop, Securities Daily reported today. Workers from the peninsula nation are already being suspended in preparation for layoffs, the report added.
Ofo did not give a clear answer when asked if the reports were true.
The retreat follows Ofo withdrawing from a number of other countries as it looks to reinvigorate the Chinese market, whose saturation was the reason that its two biggest bike sharers, Ofo and Mobike, decided to spread their wings abroad. Ofo has already left seven foreign sectors, including Australia, India, Israel and all European cities excluding London, Milan and Paris.
It has poured all efforts into success back home, halving the price of its annual subscription, offering cashback for referrals and shelling out red envelopes (cash rewards) for users who take abandoned bikes from hard-to-spot areas into city centers.
Despite the rewards, Ofo is the last remaining major bike sharer still requiring users to pay a security deposit upfront -- which some believe that could lead to its downfall. Mobike began offering deposit-free rides to users nationwide several weeks ago, and lesser players like Hellobike and Didi Chuxing’s Qingju have rolled out similar offers but with some restrictions.
Didi, the world’s largest ride-hailing operator, has long been at the heart of Ofo takeover rumors. It was once the firm’s largest investor, but after it proposed a merger with rival Mobike that didn’t leave space for Ofo’s Chief Executive Dai Wei, the bike sharer sought a massive cash injection from existing backer Alibaba -- which was happy to oblige.
Editor: James Boynton