Egyptian tuk-tuk start-up Halan to expand to Ethiopia

Mounir Nakhla, founder and CEO of Halan, is seen during an interview with Reuters in Cairo, Egypt September 17, 2019. Picture taken September 17, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 19 September 2019

Egyptian tuk-tuk start-up Halan to expand to Ethiopia

  • CEO and founder Mounir Nakhla hopes Halan will become “pan-African”
  • The company is also expanding to more cities in the Egyptian governorates

CAIRO: Halan, an Egyptian technology start-up that uses two- and three-wheeled vehicles to transport passengers and goods, will begin operating in Ethiopia before the end of 2019, its chief executive told Reuters.
The company, which targets underserved communities, is also expanding to more cities in the Egyptian governorates of Sharqeya, Daqahleya, Damietta, Qena and Gharbeya this year, said CEO and founder Mounir Nakhla.
Halan’s app allows customers to request motorbike or tuk-tuk rides, or order food or goods for delivery via motorbikes or cargo tricycles. Founded in November 2017, it already operates in around 20 to 25 cities in Egypt and Sudan.
“Halan completes a few million rides per month, almost half a million of which are in food deliveries,” Nakhla said, adding ride-hailing trips had increased 55% and food deliveries more than quadrupled in the year to date.
Nakhla, who has a background in microfinance, hopes Halan will become “pan-African” and said he saw tremendous opportunity for growth on the continent.
“Adama is a very small place in Ethiopia, about 150 km away from Addis Ababa, and it has a lot of two-wheelers and three-wheelers,” Nakhla said.
“It’s a great place to test our product in Ethiopia. We’ve already done tens of rides there in the form of testing, and we’ve got a team on board.”
The city has less than 1,000 vehicles whose drivers Halan will try to recruit to its platform “before launching countrywide,” Nakhla said.
Halan has delivery partnerships with fast food chains like McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut in Egypt. It is now targeting smaller restaurants in the underserved areas it focuses on.
The app has around 10,000 active drivers per month in total, Nakhla said. He added that Egypt has around 700,000 tuk-tuks on its streets. Uber has 90,000 monthly active drivers in Egypt.
Halan is in the midst of a so-called Series B funding round, Nakhla said, declining to disclose a timeline or targeted amount.
The start-up has raised “slightly less than $20 million” to date, Nakhla said. It employs more than 100 people.
Gojek, an Indonesian ride-hailing and e-payments company, inspired Nakhla to found Halan after he met Gojek founder and CEO Nadiem Makarim in Indonesia in 2017.
When asked if Halan would eventually go public, Nakhla said: “Our current main focus is to grow the company exponentially in a sustainable manner, while adding value to the community.”


Cirque du Soleil walks a tightrope through pandemic

Updated 06 June 2020

Cirque du Soleil walks a tightrope through pandemic

  • Suitors wage backstage battle to rescue debt-stricken Canadian circus icon
  • Among the potential bidders is former fire eater Guy Laliberte, who fouded the acrobatic troupe in 1984

MONTREAL: Its shows canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an already heavily indebted Cirque du Soleil’s fight for survival has invited an intense backstage battle to try to save the Canadian cultural icon.

High on a list of potential suitors is former fire eater Guy Laliberte, who founded the acrobatic troupe in 1984 but later sold it.

“Its revival will have to be done at the right price. And not at all costs,” said the 60-year-old, determined not to see his creation sold to private interests.

The billionaire clown said after “careful consideration,” he decided “with a great team” to pursue a bid, but offered no details.

Under his leadership, the Cirque had set up big tops in more than 300 cities around the world, delighting audiences with contemporary circus acts set to music but without the usual trappings of lions, elephants and bears.

Then the pandemic hit, forcing the company in March to cancel 44 shows worldwide, from Las Vegas to Tel Aviv, Moscow to Melbourne, and lay off 4,679 acrobats and technicians, or 95 percent of its workforce.

Hurtling toward bankruptcy, the global entertainment giant and pride of Canada commissioned a bank in early May to examine its options, including a possible sale.

Meanwhile, shareholders ponied up $50 million in bridge financing for its “short-term liquidity needs.”

Laliberte, the first clown to rocket to the International Space Station in 2009, ceded control of the Cirque for $1 billion in 2015.

It has since fallen into the hands of American investment firm TPG Capital (55 percent stake) and China’s Fosun (25 percent), which also owns Club Med and Thomas Cook travel. The Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec (CDPQ) retains the last 20 percent.

The institutional investor, which manages public pension plans and insurance programs in Quebec, bought Laliberte’s last remaining 10 percent stake in the business in February, just before the pandemic.

Since 2015, the Cirque has embarked on costly acquisitions and renovations of permanent performance halls, while its creative spirit waned, according to critics in the Quebec press.

Meanwhile, it piled on more than $1 billion in debt.

Fearing that the Cirque would be “sold to foreign interests,” the Quebec government recently offered it a conditional loan of $200 million to help relaunch its shows as restrictions on large gatherings start to be eased worldwide.

But the agreement in principle is conditional on the Cirque headquarters remaining in Montreal and the province being allowed to buy US and Chinese stakes in the company at an unspecified time in the future, “at market value” and with “probably a local partner,” said Quebec Minister of the Economy Pierre Fitzgibbon.

“The state does not want to operate the circus, but the circus is too important to Quebec (to leave it to foreigners),” he said.

In addition to Laliberte, other prospective buyers include Quebecor, the telecoms and media giant of tycoon Pierre Karl Peladeau, whose opening lowball bid was outright rejected.

“It is essentially the value and reputation of the brand” that has piqued interest in the company, says Michel Magnan, corporate governance chair at Concordia University in Montreal.

But “as long as there are restrictions on gatherings of people, the future is not very rosy” for the Cirque, he said.

Several challenges await, according to Magnan.

“There were a lot of people working in all of these shows. Where are they now? What are they doing? How are they doing? In what shape are they, what state of mind?” he said.

“The more time passes, the more this expertise risks evaporating.”

Small consolation: The Cirque resumed its performances on Wednesday in Hangzhou, China, five months after a coronavirus outbreak in the city.