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EXCLUSIVE: New oBike investor says he wants to clear debt, but repayment to S’pore users stalls

SINGAPORE — Embattled bicycle-sharing company oBike has a new majority shareholder who has struck a deal with its founders to take over the firm’s global business and clear its spiralling debt, TODAY has learnt.

Mr Oscar Moises Chaves, 29, said he is determined to fulfil the firm’s obligations to its creditors, but repayment in Singapore — where the firm is in liquidation — has hit an impasse.

Mr Oscar Moises Chaves, 29, said he is determined to fulfil the firm’s obligations to its creditors, but repayment in Singapore — where the firm is in liquidation — has hit an impasse.

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SINGAPORE — Embattled bicycle-sharing company oBike has a new majority shareholder who has struck a deal with its founders to take over the firm’s global business and clear its spiralling debt, TODAY has learnt.

Over several interviews with TODAY, Mr Oscar Moises Chaves, 29, said he is determined to fulfil the firm’s obligations to its creditors, but repayment in Singapore — where the firm is in liquidation — has hit an impasse.

On Wednesday (Jan 16), Mr Chaves — a Costa Rican based in Singapore — said he is waiting for FTI Consulting, oBike’s liquidators in Singapore, to provide a full breakdown of the amounts owed to parties here. He first made the request months ago.

He needs these sums “documented completely” so that he may look over them, before he moves ahead to supply the funds.

“You can’t expect me to just give (money) without seeing what I’m paying for. No one does that… everyone checks their invoices to pay,” he said.

Mr Chaves has a 66.9 per cent stake in oBike’s global business, excluding the Singapore entity being liquidated, based on documents seen by TODAY.

When contacted, former oBike chairman Shi Yi’s lawyer Nichol Yeo, from law firm JLC Advisors LLP, confirmed that Mr Shi is no longer an oBike shareholder. On the hold-up in repaying creditors, he said: “Shi Yi is monitoring the situation closely”.

Central to the repayment of creditors is a S$10 million sum which FTI Consulting said was transferred to oBike Hong Kong.

In the first meeting with creditors in August last year — weeks after oBike made a hasty exit from Singapore on June 25 — Mr Joshua Taylor, FTI Consulting’s senior managing director overseeing oBike’s liquidation, said about S$10 million out of S$11.7 million oBike Singapore received in user deposits and top-ups had been transferred to its Hong Kong unit as “prepayments”.

At that time, Mr Taylor described the move, which was to offset a loan from oBike Hong Kong, as inappropriate.

Speaking to TODAY, Mr Chaves said he did not receive the S$10 million sum when he took over oBike Hong Kong.

A summary of accounts seen by TODAY showed that oBike Hong Kong had an ending balance of US$183,151 (S$248,290) at the end of August last year.

Mr Taylor was unavailable for comment when TODAY visited his office in Shenton Way last Friday and on Monday.

But in an emailed response, the business advisory firm said it would “address any and all queries” creditors may have at its next meeting with them on Jan 23 in Shaw Tower’s Shine Auditorium.

The liquidators are set to provide an update on the wind-up at the meeting, which was announced last week. As the process is still under way, no payment or distribution will be made there, FTI Consulting had said.

WHAT CREDITORS ARE OWED

In the Republic, the firm owes sums including liquidator fees for the wind-up, as well as payments to creditors, such as town councils, and thousands of users seeking to retrieve the deposits they placed.

oBike Asia, the Singapore-registered entity, owes at least S$1.7 million to creditors and users, and in costs chalked up from its wind-up here, TODAY has learnt.

Based on documents — which exclude those for liquidator fees — seen by this news site, oBike Asia drew proof of debt from 30 or so creditors totalling S$743,189.

There are also claims made by 8,854 deposit holders totalling S$405,314 as of October last year, the documents revealed, while FTI Consulting’s fees are understood to be around S$600,000.

WHO IS OBIKE’S NEW INVESTOR?

Mr Chaves said he first saw the potential of a shared-mobility business after witnessing the bicycle-sharing boom.

So he set off for Shanghai, China’s financial hub, last May in hopes of bringing the oBike franchise to South America.

He was unaware then of the issues that the firm was about to confront, he said.

Receiving a response from oBike a month later, Mr Chaves put in an offer to take over the company, in a deal agreed by the firm on condition that he settle its debts globally.

In Singapore, Mr Chaves said he first approached FTI Consulting in July last year to request documents so as to settle oBike’s outstanding debts here.

The Costa Rican is also listed as the director of oBike Hong Kong, according to TODAY’s checks with the Hong Kong Companies Registry. He was appointed to the post on Sept 18 last year, after former director Hu Jian resigned that same day.

Mr Chaves, whose family owned a textile-manufacturing business in Costa Rica before it was sold four years ago to the tune of hundreds of millions, said he and his two brothers then made their foray into investments, starting OSS Inversiones, an investment firm.

Asked why he decided to invest in a troubled firm like oBike, Mr Chaves cited the company’s systems and city licences, as well as “on-field experience”.

He also wanted to “buy trust” among users here. “To me, oBike could be the way for people to know us. If I come to Singapore and I pay for the oBike issues, no one can question my integrity and honesty to do business,” Mr Chaves said.

Apart from his investments in oBike, Mr Chaves plans to launch 0MN1, a shared electric-scooter service in Singapore, in April.

“Bike-sharing, at that moment for us, was just an entry because we saw the industry changing so fast. But now, we believe we can create a unicorn company with this e-scooter (service),” he said.

Based on records from Singapore’s Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority which TODAY obtained, Mr Chaves’ brother, Mr Samuel Elias Chaves, is listed as a director of Omni Sharing, the company that will operate the service.

Its sole shareholder is OSS Sharing Technologies, a firm which lists the two Chaves brothers as among its directors.

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