Europe

Bolt valued at $4.75 billion as Uber rival aims to push into on-demand grocery delivery

Bolt’s range of services including ride-hailing, car-sharing, food delivery and electric scooter and bike rentals.

Bolt

LONDON — European ride-hailing firm Bolt said Tuesday that it has raised 600 million euros ($713 million) in fresh funding to push into the rapidly growing online grocery delivery industry.

The new investment round values Bolt at about $4.75 billion, more than double its last private valuation of $2 billion.

Venture capital firm Sequoia and fund managers Tekne and Ghisallo backed the financing, while existing investors G Squared, D1 Capital and Naya increased their holdings.

“Bolt’s mission is to make urban travel affordable and sustainable,” said Markus Villig, Bolt’s CEO and founder. “We are building a future where people are not forced to buy cars that cause traffic and pollution, but use on-demand transport when they actually need it.”

Bolt, formerly known as Taxify, started out as a taxi-hailing app in Estonia. The company has since branched out into several new services, including food delivery, car sharing and electric scooter and bike rentals, hoping to become what’s known as a “super app.”

Now, Bolt is making a big drive into grocery delivery. The company, which promises to deliver groceries in 15 minutes, plans to roll out the service to 10 European countries over the next few months, including Sweden, Portugal, Croatia and Romania.

Grocery delivery is a fiercely competitive sector, particularly in Europe, where several new on-demand shopping apps are emerging with billions of dollars in venture capital behind them.

One of the leading players in the market, Turkey’s Getir, was valued by investors at $7.5 billion in June.

The bump in Bolt’s market value is a boon to early backers like German automaker Daimler and Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi. The company also counts the World Bank and the European Investment Bank as investors.

Like other ride-hailing companies, Bolt was hit with a severe drop in revenues early in the Covid-19 pandemic. It has rapidly grown in recent months as several countries have emerged from lockdowns, and now has more than 75 million users in 45 countries across Europe and Africa.

However, Bolt now faces another source of uncertainty in the U.K. after the country’s Supreme Court ruled Uber drivers should be treated as workers entitled to benefits like a minimum wage and holiday pay.

The case sets a precedent for competing ride-hailing services such as Bolt, Ola and Free Now, which operate a similar business model to Uber.

Uber subsequently reclassified all 70,000 of its U.K. drivers as workers, rather than independent contractors, and is now calling on other operators to do the same.

“It just doesn’t make sense drivers are taking a trip with us in which they are entitled as workers to holiday pay and pensions, and five minutes later because many drivers are multi-app they’re taking a separate trip where they’re not eligible for benefits,” Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager of Northern and Eastern Europe, told CNBC.

For its part, Bolt has said it has no plans to change its driver arrangements.

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