An employee (right) of Mobike addresses a visitor's inquiries at an exhibition held in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. The company ranks top in bike-sharing firms in China. (Photo by Li Zhihao/For China Daily)
Partnership with major Japanese social media provider to facilitate expansion
Chinese bike-sharing top player Mobike Technology Co Ltd on Wednesday announced a strategic partnership with LINE Corp, Japan's largest mobile social network service provider, to better facilitate its expansion in the Japanese market.
Under the partnership, LINE led an undisclosed Series A round of investment in Mobike Japan, the Beijing-based dockless rental company's subsidiary in the country. LINE Corp, which operates Japan's popular messaging platform LINE with 71 million local users, will own less than 20 percent of Mobike Japan, taking the largest minority stake.
The two companies will also work together to integrate Mobike service into the LINE app in a similar way as it did with WeChat in China. The integration will allow LINE users to rent Mobike shared bikes inside the chat app, simply by scanning the QR code on the bike and paying using their LINE pay account or other payment methods.
"LINE is the clear leader in Japan's social media space, with a strong culture of innovation and creativity, and therefore, is the perfect partner to support our ambitious growth plans in Japan," Mobike founder Hu Weiwei said in a statement. "Working together with LINE, we will be able to provide tens of millions of LINE users with a seamless and localized experience for finding, unlocking and paying for bikes with the LINE app."
Takeshi Idezawa, president and CEO of LINE Corp, said via the new partnership, LINE was eager to offer additional value-added services that make life more convenient and comfortable for users.
"Through this capital investment and strategic business partnership with Mobike, we can support the expansion of Mobike's service in Japan by leveraging our network that make use of our various activities and services," he added.
The partnership marks Mobike's latest move to further its global expansion strategy and to better integrate in local markets.
"Similar to WeChat in China, LINE is Japan's most popular messaging service platform," said Zhang Xu, a Beijing-based internet analyst. "Thus the integration will greatly benefit Mobike, providing a larger user base and enabling new ways of conveniently accessing the shared bike services."
Founded in 2015, Mobike currently rents out more than 8 million bikes in more than 200 cities in 12 countries.
Under its ambitious goal to expand the services to 200 cities globally by the end of this year, Mobike began offering its services in the Japanese city of Sapporo in August. And it is set to officially pedal to Fukuoka this week.
Its top domestic rival, Ofo Inc, also expanded its bike-sharing services in Japan in August, with a similar global strategy, via a partnership agreement with Japanese technology firm SoftBank Commerce & Service Corp.