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Montreal Acquires BIXI for $11.9M – Controversial Bike Share Service to Continue This Summer

by John Symon
 Save $10 on a Bixi annual membership before May 15 (regular fee $78) says this sign beside a Bixi parking dock in Montreal's Old Port. [P]John Symon
February 22, 2014 (Montreal, QC) – The City of Montreal will acquire the local assets of Bixi for $11.9 million reports La Presse. This move will assure that Bixi services are maintained in Montreal this summer. In January, Bixi’s parent company, the Public Bike Share Company (PBSC) – also known as la Société de vélo en libre-service (SVLS) – declared bankruptcy one month ago. But this acquisition must still be approved by a court overseeing PBSC’s bankruptcy procedures.

PBSC owes about $50 million to 139 creditors, including some $31 million to Montreal. The $11.9 million will be deducted from the amount that PBSC owes the City.

Montreal had been expected to put Bixi under the management of Montreal’s transit authority, the STM, but municipal authorities say that instead they intend to establish a non-profit organization to manage local Bixi operations. Suzanne Lareau of Vélo-Québec welcomed the news, but wants to see the mandate of this non-profit organization. She also hopes that the plan is to strive to provide bike share services over the long term.

The public has also finally learned secret details of PBSC’s financial situation, including that the company lost almost $6.5 million in 2012 reports The Gazette. The daily describes Bixi as being “bankrolled by city of Montreal taxpayers who had been left in the dark [about what was really going on].” The Gazette further paints a picture of the bankruptcy proceedings as providing good theatre.

We also learn about potential buyers for PBSC, including an unidentified company that offered to pay more than $32 million for Bixi last summer according to testimony told to court-appointed trustee Raymond Massi and Quebec Superior Court Judge Denis Jacques.

In December, 2013, Oregon-based Alta Bicycle Share offered to buy Bixi in a deal under which it would have taken on all of Bixi’s debts, estimated at some $46 million, said Massi. That deal fell through, however.

Despite a loss of $6.5 million in 2012, revenue that year jumped 42 per cent, to reach $45.2 million. In 2013, PBSC’s revenues reached $63.1 million, with the net loss dropping to $757,000. On January 20, 2014, PBSC declared bankruptcy.

Read the La Presse article here (French)

Read The Gazette article here (English).





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