Asia news roundup: Uber-Grab competition woes continue, Mobike drops deposits, and more
These are the day’s biggest news.
Regulator provisionally finds that Grab-Uber deal infringes competition laws (Singapore). The Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) has provisionally ruled that Uber’s sale of its Southeast Asia business to Grab has substantially decreased competition in the city-state’s ride-hailing sector. The CCCS found evidence that if not for the merger, Uber would have continued operating in the market or potentially struck a deal with other players that were not direct competitors. The regulator also said that the lack of competition post-merger has led to increased prices, and that taxi-booking companies and new entrants in the market don’t have much hope of denting the merged entity’s market share. Proposed remedies include Grab waiving exclusivity deals and maintaining pre-merger rates, Uber selling its Lion City Rentals car fleet to any other other competitor but Grab (unless the CCCS approves it), and financial penalties for the companies. (Channel NewsAsia)
Mobike launches e-bike, waives deposits as it plots future with acquirer Meituan Dianping (China). The bike-sharer will now let users book bikes directly on parent Meituan’s everything-app. Mobike is also waiving the deposit requirement in China, Singapore, and other markets, making it the latest bike-sharing startup to do so after a number of competitor shutdowns and controversies. The company also introduced a lightweight e-bike, which it plans to make available both in China and international markets, and a recycling scheme for old bicycles. (Mobike)
Ola appoints ex-CEO of eBay Australia as managing director (Australia). The India-based ride-hailer announced today it has appointed Simon Smith, former CEO of eBay Australia, to be its managing director in the country. Ola launched its operations Down Under early this year, and now serves Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth, and the Gold Coast. The company extends its rivalry with Uber to Australia but also has to contend with local startup GoCatch and European rival Taxify. (Livemint)
AsiaCollect nets fresh funding to digitize debt collecting (Singapore). The new round was led by SIG Asia Investments and joined by existing investor Dymon Asia Ventures. The amount is undisclosed, but it brings AsiaCollect’s total funding to US$4.5 million so far. The startup builds software tools for credit management services, helping lenders recover non-performing loans by automating the process of contacting customers. This can include automatic text messaging, interactive voice recordings, and predictive dialing systems. It will use the funding to acquire more clients, improve its tech, and build up its team as well as purchase non-performing loan portfolios. (AsiaCollect)
Digital lender LoanTap snaps up US$6.2 million from China’s Shunwei Capital (India). The Bangalore-based company has raised US$6.2 million from Beijing-based Shunwei Capital. The round was joined by Tuscan Ventures, entrepreneur Ashish Goenka, and existing investors India Quotient and Kae Capital. LoanTap offers personal loans to individuals, ranging from overdraft facilities to advanced salary loans. So far, it has lent US$14.5 million to more than 5,000 customers. It plans to use the funding to source around US$29 million from lending institutions to disburse to more borrowers. (Inc42)
Enterprise software and services
Prototyping software startup ProtoPie raises US$3.5 million series A (South Korea). The funding comes from Korea Investment Partners, which is a backer of South Korean internet dynamo Naver. Kolon Investment and POSCO Venture Capital also participated. ProtoPie’s tools can be used to create product prototypes like contactless payment apps, apps that use a device’s sensors such as a music identifying tool, and external hardware integration. The money will power the team’s growth, particularly in Western markets. It’s already serving clients like Google, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Alibaba, and is present in 70 countries. (ProtoPie)
Property and real estate
Co-working network Campfire books US$18 million series A to plan global expansion (Hong Kong). The round was led by Kwai Hung Group, Sa Sa International Holdings, and Fast Global Holdings. Campire cites its “industry-specific” shared spaces as its edge over competitors in the crowded Asian market. It offers special-purpose facilities like photo studios or 3D printing equipment, co-living services, and children-focused co-learning spaces. The fresh funds will bankroll new locations in central London, Melbourne, Sydney, and Singapore, as well as further plans for Tokyo, Osaka, Bangkok, and Brisbane. (Campfire)
Health and well-being
HungerBox feasts on US$4.5 million series A (India). The Bangalore-based foodtech startup has raised US$4.5 million in a series A round led by Neoplux, a South Korean investment firm, and India-focused Sabre Partners. The round was joined by Lionrock Capital and Kris Gopalakrishnan, co-founder of Infosys. HungerBox provides an online platform for companies that allows employees to order food from several vendors and use their company-provided benefits – a kind of online cafeteria for corporate clients. The company says its platform processes six million orders per month across 160 companies. Clients in India include Qualcomm, Microsoft, Accenture, and McKinsey. HungerBox will use the funding to keep growing in its home market and expand to Southeast Asia. (HungerBox)
Space and aviation
Rocket startup iSpace raises series A from Matrix Partners (China). The Beijing-based firm works on rockets for small satellite operators and researchers. Its launchers cover a range of solid-fuel and liquid-fuel rockets for sub-orbital flight. It raised an undisclosed amount for its series A round, led by Matrix Partners China, bringing its total funding up to US$90.4 million. The startup will use the funding to fuel research and development of its rockets, engines, and assembly base, and hire more staff. (China Money Network)
Tech in Asia is making some changes to its daily roundup so that you get the day’s major news faster. The revamped format will begin on July 9. Stay tuned.
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