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Lime drops Singapore sandbox licence as it 're-prioritises' growth plans

Lime drops Singapore sandbox licence as it 're-prioritises' growth plans

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3 -min read
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SAN Francisco-based e-scooter and e-bike rental firm Lime has backed out of a move to expand its place in the Singapore market, just months after naming the Republic as the site of its regional headquarters.

The American startup has withdrawn its application for a sandbox licence to run shared personal mobility device (PMD) services "in the short term", it told the press on Friday, while characterising the move as a "re-prioritisation" of growth plans.

Lime, which has been valued at more than US$2 billion, first rolled out its scooters here at Singapore Science Park 1 and 2 in November 2018. This was followed by news in April that it would open its Asia-Pacific base in Singapore's central business district in the third quarter.

Wayne Ting, Lime's global head of operations and strategy, said in a statement that the firm will maintain its corporate team in Singapore, adding that "our commitment to the region is unwavering".

"The exponential growth of our business requires us to prioritise our expansion efforts to ensure that we continue to deliver the best possible experience for our riders and just as importantly for the cities in which we serve," said Mr Ting, who was chief of staff at Uber until late-2018.

Lime's Asia-Pacific footprint spans Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. While the company's statement did not disclose plans for the Singapore outpost, its website still lists a vacancy for a Singapore-based regional general manager, who would serve as "acting CEO of your region".

Singapore's Land Transport Authority (LTA) had been expected to issue PMD-sharing sandbox licences, which would give holders the right to fleets of up to 500 e-scooters, as a precursor to a full-fledged, large-scale licence, by mid-2019.

But the regulator has since pushed back its decision until the third quarter of the year, citing safety concerns amid "recent incidents of reckless riding and accidents involving PMDs".

Under present regulations, e-scooter rental operations can be done only on private property.

Lime chief operating officer Joe Kraus reportedly told The Straits Times in May that "we have to remember, if we have an objective, which is to lower car use, we shouldn't have a regulatory environment for PMDs that discourages their use and diminishes their value".

"We look forward to continue working with the LTA and delivering convenient and affordable transportation options to the people of Singapore in the future," Mr Ting said.