- Micromobility operator Helbiz announced Tuesday it signed a letter of intent to acquire industry peer Wheels, which offers seated scooter models and has integrated helmet technology. Terms of the “primarily all-stock deal” were not disclosed, but the company said it expects the acquisition to be completed by year’s end.
- Helbiz CEO Salvatore Palella said in the announcement that the acquisition is “expected to double revenue, expand the cities served, enhance margins and reduce costs,” adding that the company’s focus “is to adapt and grow with profitability at the core of every decision.” Palella also said the company expects to achieve profitability within the next 18 months.
- The companies previously signaled partnership in January this year with a memorandum of understanding, in which Wheels agreed to supply Helbiz with an initial fleet of 2,500 seated e-mobility devices to roll out in four U.S. cities and two Italian “innovation hubs.”
Helbiz, headquartered in New York, says it currently has 50 licenses for offering micromobility vehicles across the U.S. 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 across 12 U.S. 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 that scooter riders wear helmets. The shared and dockless nature of these vehicles has meant that helmet-wearing usually only occurs if a rider plans ahead and brings their own helmet. To make helmets a part of 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 ensuring that riders wear helmets using selfie photos.
Palella said in Tuesday’s announcement that the goal of Helbiz, which is publicly traded on the Nasdaq, is to “demonstrate to the capital markets that the micro-mobility model is sustainable through data-driven, highly focused, and tightly controlled expenditures.” The company reported total mobility revenue of $9.9 million in 2021 (up from $4.2 million in 2020) but had a companywide net loss of nearly $72 million.
Palella’s optimism comes in the face of the micromobility industry struggling to breed profitable companies. 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 off assets to cover debts. And earlier this month, former Bird employees and tech layoff trackers elevated the news that Bird was laying off nearly a quarter of its staff.
Other industry deals this year have included TIER Mobility’s acquisition of Spin from Ford, Lyft’s acquisition of bikeshare equipment and tech provider PBSC Urban Solutions, and Acton’s acquisition of docking and charging infrastructure startup Duckt.