Caixin
Apr 11, 2020 09:25 PM

Meituan Feuds with Italian Startup Over Offloaded Mobike Assets

Meituan began offloading Mobike's international assets in 2018 to focus on its domestic bike-sharing business.
Meituan began offloading Mobike's international assets in 2018 to focus on its domestic bike-sharing business.

Meituan Dianping is embroiled in a dispute over around two million euros ($2.2 million) with the Italian startup that bought its local Mobike business last year, after the Chinese services giant drained its payment accounts.

The dispute, which also includes a clash over deposits and the personal data of 1.5 million Mobike users in Italy and Spain, reflects the legacy of Meituan’s strategy of offloading international assets from the bike-sharing firm it purchased in 2018.

“All our revenues since January have been withdrawn by Mobike China taking all the amounts belonging to Idri BK from our accounts held on the payment platforms,” said Alessandro Felici, the Founder and CEO of the Italian firm, in an open letter to Meituan CEO Wang Xing on Wednesday.

Felici accused Meituan of forcing Idri BK towards bankruptcy and of “(jeopardizing) China’s credibility during Covid-19,” saying the ongoing pandemic had wiped out 98% of his company's bike-sharing business, and that doctors and volunteers in Italy were relying on their services.

“(Meituan’s) behavior is causing enormous difficulties, not only for our company, but also for our country,” Idri BK said in a separate statement.

Meituan has hit back, threatening legal action over what it calls the Italian company’s “misrepresentations,” saying Idri BK owes it money, and accusing the company of trying to gain attention by linking a commercial dispute that arose after their takeover deal in December to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“We find it unacceptable that Idri BK, through Mr. Felici, has chosen not to pursue the resolution of the ongoing issues between our companies and to instead issue an open letter evidently aimed at conveying a negative message, not only about our own company, but to cast aspersions on Chinese companies in general,” Meituan said in a statement emailed to Caixin on Friday.

“As Mr. Felici is fully aware, Idri BK has failed to make all agreed payments to Mobike, and Idri BK remains substantially in arrears,” the statement said.

Meituan didn’t say in the statement how much it was claiming from Idri BK. Felici said the Chinese company was seeking 1.9 million euros.

After it acquired Mobike in April 2018, Meituan began to offload the company’s international assets while focusing on its domestic bike-sharing business, in a turnaround of Mobike’s previously aggressive international expansion strategy.

Idri BK, which had run the company's Italian operation since 2017, acquired Mobike’s bikes and other assets in Italy and Spain in December.

According to Felici, his company signed an agreement with Meituan waiving “all past payable and receivables from both parties.” He said his company had never challenged the fact that it had owed the Chinese company money, but said Meituan only began to chase the debt after the waiver was signed.

A spokesperson for Meituan declined to confirm details of the waiver.

In 2019, Idri BK’s “outstanding receivables” were 1.4 million euros, compared to 1.2 million euros in “payables” for the year, Felici said. “We don t know why they didn’t realize this number (1.2 million) before the closing (the deal) since it has always been visible to them being part of the revenues generated in Italy and reported daily to both companies,” Felici told Caixin by email.

A Meituan spokesperson would not publicly discuss the details of the dispute when contacted by Caixin. “Mobike has no further comment aside from the statement shared with you earlier,” the spokesperson said.

Meituan said the company was still seeking an "amicable resolution" to the dispute.

Contact reporter Mo Yelin (yelinmo@caixin.com) and editor Flynn Murphy (flynnmurphy@caixin.com) 

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