Honestbee, the Singapore-based grocery delivery startup that has been struggling with financial issues, owes 217 employees a total of almost USD $1 million in unpaid salary. The Strait Times reported that the figure was revealed in an affidavit filed in court on September 20 by Honestbee CEO Ong Lay Ann as part of the startup’s debt moratorium application.
The Ministry of Manpower told the Strait Times that 44 employees have filed claims with the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management, with some of the employees settling mediation by agreeing to a payment schedule with Honestbee that will be monitored by the alliance.
In an emailed statement to TechCrunch, an Honestbee spokesperson said, “There is a communicated salary delay for Honestbee’s ex-employees and employees currently serving notice. While there are regular injections of working capital, the amount remains insufficient for all headcount. As a result, the company has made the difficult decision to prioritize existing staff in Singapore. The company has the full intention in meeting its obligations to staff and will be, if not already in active discussions with staff in relation to a feasible payment schedule.”
[After this post was published, Honestbee emailed an additional statement: “The Company fully intends to honour its salaries to its employees. At present, the salaries of current employees are not affected. Only ex-employees will be subject to a payment scheme. The payment schedule for affected headcount in Singapore is being developed with ex-employees being paid across five tranches. The first intended payment planned for 30 September 2019.”]
TechCrunch reported in April that Honestbee was running out of money and trying to find a buyer. The company, which used to operate in eight markets across Asia, has stopped operating in Hong Kong and Indonesia, temporarily halted services in Japan and the Philippines and suspended its food delivery service in Thailand.
The affidavit filed by Ong says Honestbee currently has 190 employees, down from 523 full-time employees and 77 part-time workers in January.
Ong also said that Honestbee chairman Brian Koo resigned from the board on on September 12.
According to the affidavit, Koo and associates, including investment vehicles he set up, are owed about $258 million, or about 90% of Honestbee’s debt. Koo, a founding managing partner of venture capital firm Formation Group, was one of Honestbee’s earliest investors and served as interim CEO from May to July after former chief executive Joel Sng stepped down.
Updated with additional statement from Honestbee.