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Chinese bike-sharing company reduces US ambitions



  China Bike Sharing Highlights Business Barriers

Chinese bike-sharing startup Ofo moves back to its US business.

Less than a year after its launch in the US, Ofo now says it is releasing staff across the country and moving out of several cities.

"As we continue to introduce bike-sharing in communities around the world, Ofo has begun to reassess markets that are obstacles," said Andrew Daley, head of Ofo North America, in a statement on Thursday.

The company will instead "prioritize growth in viable markets," he added.

Ofo employed approximately 1

20 people in the United States and worked in more than 30 American cities. The company said it will maintain its operations in places like San Diego and Seattle, where it faces fewer regulatory challenges.

An Ofo spokesman declined to say how many people would be fired and which cities would leave the company. It had already withdrawn from Chicago earlier this month and called regulatory hurdles.

The Chinese startup also competes with US ride-hailing giants Uber, who bought a dockless e-bike sharing company, Jump Bikes, in April.

Related: China's bike-sharing competition heats up with Mobike sales

Ofo's US downsizing is part of a larger global retreat.

OFO COO Zhang Yanqi told CNN in an interview last July that the dockless bike sharing company is taking international expansion seriously. He has fulfilled his promise – by the end of 2017 Ofo was active in 20 countries.

But this year the company says it pulls out of Australia, Germany and Israel to operate markets where it's more expensive.

  ofo Beijing repair center
Ofo is one of the leading players in his native China.

Related: China's "dockless" bike sharing could come on a road in your area

Ofo is one of the leading players in his home market of China, where it faces a fierce, expensive battle with rivals Mobike and Hello Bike is located.

It was one of the first dockless bicycle companies to flood the streets of Beijing with a fleet of colorful two-wheelers. Via a smartphone app, the bicycles can be locked and unlocked anywhere, so that users do not have to return them to specific stations.

Analysts had celebrated the Chinese model as a game changer, and its top companies were growing fast.

Investors gave money to Ofo and Mobike and quickly catapulted the companies to a $ 1 billion valuation. In March, Ofo secured another $ 866 million in a fundraising round under the leadership of Tech Giant Alibaba ( BABA ) .

For a while, it looked like Mobike and Ofo would continue their costly fight. At one point in time, the two allegedly controlled 90% of the market for dockless bicycles in China.

But new players with deep pockets are shaking up the industry.

Meuituan Dianping, the online service startup, took over Mobike in April, destroying the expectations of a merger with Ofo. Meanwhile, Chinese driver Didi Chuxing started his own bike-sharing service in January.

CNNMoney (Hong Kong) First published July 19, 2018: 1:48 pm ET


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