Ofo has taken to its WeChat public account to counter rumors that it is struggling and laying off staff, our sister site is reporting (in Chinese). The company published a posting entitled “No company has ever failed because of rumors!” where it stated its findings of a media survey of slanderous articles and postings across the Chinese internet. The posting ends with ofo saying it had already sent lawyers’ letters to the media companies involved.

This follows ofo co-founder Yu Xin’s denial on June 4 that the hire bike company was laying off 50% of its staff in the wake of the departure of COO Zhang Yanqi.

In today’s WeChat posting, in the last 24 hours thousands of almost identical articles have appeared across WeChat and Weibo with a formulaic headline structure beginning with the question “Is ofo about to collapse?” then followed by a range of similar responses (see image below). Even KOLs appear to have jumped on the bandwagon according to ofo.

The posting says the company has always positively welcomed opinions, “but when it comes to malicious slander, which is planned and organized mass defamation, we have zero tolerance! (ofo has already sent lawyers’ letters to the media organizations concerned.) [sic].”

Ofo Weibo smear campaign
Examples of Weibo content that ofo is branding as rumors. (Image credit: ofo)

It seems that the articles have spread since an article on Huxiu on June 4 entitled “ofo is about to collapse” (in Chinese), a play on words as ofo has another name in Chinese which translates as “little yellow vehicle” and “yellow” can also mean for something to fall through. The article suggested that half the company’s staff was to be laid off and its overseas arm dissolved. Both points ofo denies.

The hire bike market is facing a much more hostile environment than when bikes first started appearing on the streets of Chinese cities. Local governments have placed bans on new bikes being brought into cities and further bans on advertising on the bikes and even on the lifespan on bikes will mean an even bumpier road ahead for newcomers and old hands.

Frank Hersey is a Beijing-based tech reporter who's been coming to China since 2001. He tries to go beyond the headlines to explain the context and impact of developments in China's tech sector. Get in...

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