Quebec businessman Bruno Rodi is a step closer to buying the international branch of Bixi, the popular but debt-ridden bike-sharing service.
His bid of $4 million for the international operations of Public Bike System Company (PBSC), the firm that owns the Bixi brand, was upheld after a Quebec judge ruled Friday that a bigger offer from another company was submitted too late.
On Thursday night, American company REQX Ventures outbid Rodi with an offer of $5 million US to the City of Montreal, which is PBSC's largest creditor and took over the Montreal arm of its bike-sharing business in February.
A new court date is set for Tuesday to have the sale approved.
- Bixi needs Montrealers to 'show their love': Denis Coderre
- Bixi owes $50M, files for bankruptcy protection
- Bixi paid out bonuses before filing for bankruptcy protection
Dominic Deveaux, the official in charge of the company's restructuring, says the city is watching the deal with keen interest since it will be the main beneficiary of the proceeds.
The city's official opposition party said today's bid from Rodi is good news.
"It is the best that we can have, and I’m very happy the buyer is from the Quebec province and the Montreal metropolitan region. That’s very good news," said Richard Bergeron of Projet Montréal.
The company has international operations in several cities, including London, Chicago, New York and Melbourne.
The program also has a presence in Ottawa — under the name Capital Bixi.
In Toronto, the struggling Bixi program was taken over by the Toronto Parking Authority in December. The revamped bike-sharing program was unveiled in March as Toronto Bike Share.
Bixi owes $50M
PBSC owes $50 million to various creditors. The company applied for bankruptcy protection in January, and in February, Montreal bought its local assets for $11.9 million.
City officials say they've already spent millions of dollars subsidizing Bixi, but some say Bixi will continue to need public financing to thrive.
"If you look in Europe and most North American cities, there's only one model that works — it's the subsidized one. Everywhere Bixi rolls, there's a city behind that helps," said La Presse editorial writer François Cardinal.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre announced in March that the city would be launching a new non-profit organization to oversee the city's bike-sharing program — Bixi Montreal. With a $4.3-million contract, a $460,000 short-term loan and a $165,000 grant from the city, the organization is expected to launch its bike-sharing season by mid-April.
"We have at least 54,000 subscribers," Coderre said. "I'm asking the people to show their love. So, if they want to keep it, I will have some recommendations. We created an organization that's taking care of that, and by the end of the year I will know what will be the future