Tencent Tech (in Chinese) is reporting that China’s top bike rental startup Mobike has recently completed the acquisition of smaller player Unibike, citing people familiar with the matter. The source didn’t specify the sum for this acquisition but pointed out that Mobike is also an investor in their RMB 100 million (around US$ 14.6 million) Series A.

“The report is not accurate. Mobike focuses on continuously improving the user experience, enhancing the competitiveness of core technologies and accelerating the pace of expansion at home and abroad,” said a spokesperson for the company. They did not, however, go into detail about the inaccuracies.

In October 2016, Mobike invested RMB 5 million in UniBike. After that, Unibike started to operate as an affiliated brand for Mobike on China’s university campuses.

If true, this could be a major move for Mobike in their battle against ofo. UniBike resembles ofo in several ways with its original focus on campus market and offering deposit-free services. The source disclosed that Mobike is planning to move to the lower end market with the acquisition of UniBike, noting great opportunities for synergy.

In addition to the tightening battle between the two largest companies in the vertical, the deal is significant because it would mark the first major acquisition in China’s burgeoning bike rental industry.

China’s heated bike rental war leaves little chance for smaller players to survive when facing the companies like ofo and Mobike. The UniBike acquisition comes just a few days after the sector witnessed its first casualty at the beginning of this week: Chongqing-based bike rental startup Wukong Bike announced that it is shuttering just last week.

Despite the unclear answers from the company, we can bet on one thing: After the explosion in the market, China’s bike rental industry is moving fast towards the consolidation phase. Even if UniBike’s acquisition news isn’t true, it won’t take us long to record the first acquisition or dozens that are definitely going to follow.

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via lixin@sixthtone.com or Twitter.

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