Micromobility operator Helbiz announces plans to acquire Wheels
- Micromobility operator Helbiz announced on Tuesday that it has signed a letter of intent to acquire industry counterpart Wheels, which offers seated scooter models and incorporates helmet technology. Terms of the “primarily equity deal” were not disclosed, but the company said it expects the acquisition to be completed by the end of the year.
- Helbiz CEO Salvatore Palella said in the announcement that the acquisition is expected to “double revenue, expand cities served, improve margins and reduce costs,” adding that the company’s goal “is to adapt and grow with profitability at the heart of every decision.” Palella also said the company expects to achieve profitability within the next 18 months.
- The companies previously announced their partnership in January this year with a memorandum of understanding, in which Wheels agreed to provide Helbiz with an initial fleet of 2,500 seated electric mobility devices to be deployed in four US cities and two innovation” Italians.
Overview of the dive:
New York-headquartered Helbiz says it currently has 50 licenses to offer micromobility vehicles in the United States and Italy. Wheels CEO Marco McCottry noted in the announcement a “minimal overlap of city permits” between the two companies. Wheels’ footprint includes 8,000 vehicles in 12 US cities and four universities.
In addition to expanding Helbiz’s geographic reach, the acquisition would provide new technologies. The potential addition of Wheels’ helmet assets to Helbiz’s offerings comes as some cities, including Miami, have considered or implemented regulations requiring scooter riders to wear helmets. The shared and dockless nature of these vehicles means that helmet wearing usually only happens if a rider plans ahead and brings their own helmet. To bring helmets into shared-use micromobility, Los Angeles-based Wheels introduced an integrated helmet system that attaches to the back of vehicles with single-use liners. Helbiz, like others in the industry, has tried to ensure riders wear helmets using selfie photos.
Palella said in Tuesday’s announcement that the goal of Helbiz, which is listed on the Nasdaq, is to “demonstrate to capital markets that the micro-mobility model is sustainable through data-driven, highly targeted and tightly controlled spending.” The company reported total mobility revenue of $9.9 million in 2021 (vs. $4.2 million in 2020), but reported a company-wide net loss of nearly $72 million of dollars.
Palella’s optimism comes as the micromobility industry struggles to build profitable businesses. In December 2020, Helbiz announced plans to acquire scooter operator Skip as a subsidiary for West Coast expansion. In August 2021, Skip filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy to sell assets to cover his debts. And earlier this month, former Bird employees and tech layoff trackers reported that Bird was laying off nearly a quarter of its staff.
Other industry deals this year include TIER Mobility’s acquisition of Spin from Ford, Lyft’s acquisition of bike-sharing equipment and technology provider PBSC Urban Solutions, and the acquisition by Acton from docking and charging infrastructure startup Duckt.