Cab-hailing app Karhoo revived, S’pore ex-staff remain in limbo

Cab-hailing app Karhoo revived, S’pore ex-staff remain in limbo
A screenshot from Karhoo's website announcing its closure. Photo: Karhoo's website
Published: 9:30 PM, January 13, 2017
Updated: 10:34 AM, January 14, 2017

SINGAPORE — The British taxi-hailing app service Karhoo, which closed abruptly in Singapore and around the world two months ago, will be back in business later this year, although it is unclear whether it would resume operations here.

The start-up’s former employees in Singapore, who are owed Central Provident Fund (CPF) payments and other sums, are still waiting with bated breath.

Last month, KordaMentha Restructuring was appointed Karhoo Singapore’s liquidator to recover its assets, and the CPF Board said that it has filed a claim with the liquidator to recover the arrears.

On Thursday, Karhoo said in a statement that it had been bought out of administration.

RCI Bank and Services, the French financial arm of the Renault-Nissan automobile group, is funding the new team. Its spokesperson, Adam Fresco, was unable to say if the firm would resume business in Singapore.

Karhoo said that corporate and investment firms from across the globe placed 40 bids for the company in the month after it folded.

New venture Flit Technologies — which is funded by RCI — had snagged a competitive auction process, Karhoo said, and the start-up is set to “relaunch this year”.

For now, payments owed to former employees and creditors of Karhoo Singapore remain outstanding. TODAY reported early last month that six former staff members lodged complaints after Karhoo Singapore failed to pay its share of last October’s CPF contributions to employees. Several of them were each owed sums of between S$2,000 and S$2,200. A CPF Board spokesperson said that the board would inform the workers when it receives payment.

Mr Luke Furler, KordaMentha Restructuring’s executive director, said that the liquidator is in the midst of recovering Karhoo Singapore’s assets, which would be sold and distributed to creditors according to “the priority that’s set out in the Companies Act”.

The team would be meeting creditors again in the “coming month or so”, he added.

When a firm shuts, the Companies Act states that priority should first be given to paying the costs and expenses of the wind-up, including the liquidator’s remuneration, followed by employees’ wages that were earned wholly or in part. Employees’ superannuation or provident-fund contributions are fifth on the list.

A former employee, who joined Karhoo Singapore last July and declined to be named, said that she attended the first creditors’ meeting called by the liquidator on Dec 21. “(The situation) doesn’t look very positive. There’s very little … in the bank account,” she said.

Another staff member in his 20s, who also requested anonymity, said that he was not confident there would be “enough value” from the assets to pay every ex-employee, but he would press on with claiming his CPF arrears and other sums, “especially now that Karhoo has been bought over”.

Mr Steven Loke, 52, owner of Karhoo’s former Club Street premises, said that he is still owed last November’s rent and is looking for a new tenant. There is little to do but wait.

“If they are already closed (and have) no money, you sue them, (it’s) also no use … Hopefully, they can pay up whatever is owed,” Mr Loke said.