VanMoof, the e-bike company that declared bankruptcy in the Netherlands last month, is for sale. A number of buyers are rumored to be circling the popular Dutch brand, but the one potential bidder making the most noise is also the one least likely to be successful.
The two administrators who were chosen by the Dutch court as trustees for VanMoof are telling the local press that several bids have been made. “In the coming days, the bids will be compared with each other and discussed with the stakeholders,” said curators Jan Padberg and Robin de Wit, according to Bright. The aim is to reach a final agreement within a few days.
“In the coming days, the bids will be compared with each other and discussed with the stakeholders.”
The curators are not revealing any names, but some rumored bidders, according to Bright, include KKR, a US-based investment group that also owns Dutch bike conglomerate Accell Group, as well as bike giants like Trek and Giant. There’s also rumored interest from Germany, though it’s unclear which company is involved.
The only known bidder at this time is micromobility.com, which announced that it had submitted a nonbinding offer for VanMoof, citing its “strong brand reputation, innovative e-bike technology, and its unique subscription model.” But the company has serious red flags, and it’s unclear it has enough money to complete an acquisition.
micromobility.com, formerly known as Helbiz, went public in 2021 by merging with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. After the merger, the company said its valuation was $408 million, but its stock has since plummeted and its market cap now stands at around $8.75 million.
micromobility.com has run into other problems, including lawsuits, missed payroll, and bizarre attempts to pivot to new lines of business (Italian soccer, cryptocurrency, and ghost kitchens, to name a few).
But more importantly, it does not appear that micromobility.com (yes, lowercase and domain name included) actually has enough money on hand to buy VanMoof. The company reported just $647,000 in cash and cash equivalents at the end of March as it continues to post losses. Its stock is also currently in the toilet after a reverse split, and as of the quarter ending in March 2023, its balance sheet shows assets of $36.88 million on liabilities totaling $75.64 million — meaning it’s nearly $40 million in debt.
The company has serious red flags, and it’s unclear it has enough money to complete an acquisition
micromobility.com CEO Salvatore Palella was in Amsterdam this week, presumedly to try to make a deal, and oddly seems to be trying to tweet through the whole process — including a poll asking his followers whether he should remain CEO or step down. (They voted resign; but Palella said he would “hold off” on big decisions until VanMoof’s trustees make their decision.)
“As the process unfolds, let’s not forget the real stakeholders: the consumers,” Palella tweeted. “Thousands of undelivered bikes, warranty issues - these aren’t footnotes, they’re headlines. It’s not just about deep pockets, it’s about consumer trust.”
It’s a nice sentiment, but trustees will likely be looking for buyers who are actually able to complete an acquisition. And VanMoof won’t be cheap; as noted by Bright, tens of millions of euros will be needed. The company is said to have lost around 80 million euros in both 2021 and 2022. In total, almost 200 million euros have been invested in VanMoof.
Whoever succeeds in acquiring VanMoof will need to assure customers that their bikes will continue to work for the long term. The company’s bikes require custom parts and specialized service, and some features, like anti-theft, rely on connectivity to servers that will presumedly shut down if VanMoof is unable to find a buyer.
Other companies are swooping in with proposed fixes. Cowboy, a rival e-bike company from Belgium, released an app that can generate and save a VanMoof owner’s unique digital key. And Upway, a secondary market for used e-bikes, launched a repair program for VanMoof bike owners. The company says it has 500 repair slots over the next 12 or so months in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and New York City.