Micromobility operator Helbiz misses payroll, blames software ‘update’

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Helbiz, a shared electric scooter and bike provider that operates in the US and Europe, failed to pay its US-based employees this past week, The Verge has learned. In an email to employees, the company’s CEO blamed “an error in our payroll system” and promised each employee a $100 bonus to make up for the snafu.

“I personally apologize for this mistake and hope you know it does not reflect my knowledge of the value you all provide to the success of this company,” Helbiz CEO Salvatore Palella said in the email, which was obtained by The Verge.

“On payroll, there was an update in our payroll system and it caused a delay to meet this cycle. Unfortunately, because it happened before the weekend, it will take a few days to rectify and our employees will be paid this week,” Rosenberg said. “We regret this happened and are working with employees who may need further assistance.”

Helbiz went public last year by merging with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, apparently with the hopes of raking in enough money to expand into other services. After the merger, Helbiz said its valuation was $408 million, but the company’s stock has since dropped and its market cap now stands at around $92.7 million.

Image: Helbiz

Helbiz has run into other hurdles as well. The company’s full earnings report from 2021, as well as the fourth quarter report from that year, has been delayed until mid-April 2022, which is well after most public companies have released their own earnings reports. The US Securities and Exchange Commission stipulates that full-year reports be released no later than 60 days after the end of the fiscal year.

“We were unable to get necessary data from one of our third parties in time to complete our audit so we requested the delay,” Rosenberg said. He also denied any connection between the missed payroll and the delayed earnings report.

The company is known primarily as a micromobility operator. But since its SPAC merger, Helbiz has attempted to expand into other offerings, including ghost kitchens and media streaming. Last year, the company launched Helbiz Media, a new streaming service, with a deal with Fox Networks Group to be the exclusive distributor of Italy’s Serie B soccer championship in the US and the Caribbean. The news sent Helbiz’s share price soaring 97 percent before eventually sinking to its current price of around $3 a share.

There have been other questionable moves as well. Palella, Helbiz’s CEO, was sued last year by a group of investors who claimed they were defrauded into buying the HelbizCoin cryptocurrency as part of a “pump and dump” scheme.

The plaintiffs said Helbiz promised to use proceeds from its initial cryptocurrency offering, which was announced in 2018, to develop a platform allowing users to rent bikes, cars, scooters, and flying drone taxis. Instead, Helbiz kept most of the money for itself and, in accepting other forms of currency, effectively killed its own cryptocurrency, they allege.

Helbiz’s lawyers say the case is “without merit,” according to Reuters. The case is still pending in New York district court.

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