SHANGHAI: China’s two leading bike-sharing firms, Ofo and Mobike, are linking up with established brands and expanding overseas even as the companies’ valuations continue to exceed their apparent revenue-generating capabilities.

Advertising is one possible income stream and Mobike has partnered with Shanghai Disney in a deal that will see a number of its bikes in Shanghai become Mickey and Minnie Mouse-themed, with, for example, spotted bowties on the handlebars and images of Minnie on wheel covers.

People riding the bikes will be offered discount coupons that can be used at a Disney gift store.

China Money Network noted that ads were “a natural choice” for Mobike to monetize its user base which extends to more than 100m registered users and over 25m rides daily.

Other options include e-commerce – Mobike recently started selling raincoats through its WeChat store – and, more controversially, generating investment returns on the user deposits it holds.

Ofo, meanwhile, has teamed up with China Post in Shanghai to launch an Ofo-themed post office, ECNS reported.

Both bike-sharing businesses have also tied up with two of the nation’s internet giants, Ofo with Alibaba and its Sesame Credit service to make it simple for riders to make a deposit, Mobike with Tencent’s WeChat to allow riders to use its bikes five times a week without paying a deposit.

And the pair are moving into overseas markets, challenging the traditional sharing method which necessitates building infrastructure to dock the bikes by allowing users to lock bikes anywhere with the next users unlocking them by scanning a QR code through a smartphone app.

Mobike is present in in 150 cities in five countries; Ofo is in 170 cities in eight countries and has just announced it intends to place 6,000 bikes at major universities in Thailand.

But they won’t have it all their own way as a similar Singapore business, Obike, has just raised $45m in funding for international expansion.

Data sourced from China Money Network, ECNS, Xinhua, Tech in Asia; additional content by WARC staff