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Uber rival Bolt valued at $1.9 billion, plans for coronavirus recovery


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Bolt CEO Markus Villig


Bolt, a European competitor to Uber, says it’s now valued at 1.7 billion euros ($1.9 billion) after raising fresh funds, as it aims to rebuild momentum in a business severely disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Tallinn, Estonia-based company said Tuesday it raised 100 million euros from Naya Capital, an investment manager founded by hedge fund investor Masroor Siddiqui. The new capital will be used to boost its main ride-hailing business as well as newer services like electric scooters and food delivery.

“Even though the crisis has temporarily changed how we move, the long-term trends that drive on-demand mobility such as declining personal car ownership and the shift towards greener transportation continue to grow,” Bolt co-founder and CEO Markus Villig said in a statement Tuesday.

Bolt suffered a 75% drop in revenues around mid-March as countries across Europe began introducing lockdown restrictions to stem the spread of Covid-19. Other players in the space, such as Uber and Ola, were similarly affected, though Bolt claims it hasn’t had to lay people off to cope with the impact of the pandemic. The firm did however cut salaries by 20-30% in April and May, but is expecting them to return to pre-crisis levels soon.

The company’s ride-hailing services are available in more than 150 cities across Europe and Africa. Last year, the firm rebranded from Taxify to expand into new areas like scooter-sharing and food. It recently introduced new services targeted at couriers and essential workers to adapt to the crisis.

Villig said Bolt’s investors — which include German automaker Daimler and Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing —  “support our long term view and don’t buy into the mindless spending that’s become so common in Silicon Valley.”

“I am more confident than ever that our efficiency and localisation are a fundamental advantage in the on-demand industry,” he added. “These enable us to continue offering affordable transportation to millions of customers and the best earnings for our partners in the post-COVID world.”

In December, Villig said his firm had broken even or reached profitability in two thirds of its markets, but the pandemic has led to something of a reset for transportation apps. In 2018, the most recent publicly available figures, Bolt made a net loss of 61 million euros with revenues of around 80 million euros.

Bolt’s latest financing round consisted of a convertible note, a form of short-term debt that can be converted into equity. Naya was the only investor to buy into the round, and discussions took place remotely without any in-person meetings.

www.cnbc.com 2020-05-27 08:33:36

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