The BlaBlaCar carpooling platform will buy Ouibus, a subsidiary of SNCF’s “Macron cars”, and has launched a fundraising of 101 million euros in which the public group will participate, representatives of the two companies announced on Monday.
SNCF will sell Ouibus, its “Macron coach” company, to BlaBlaCar and will participate in a € 101 million capital increase for the carpooling platform, for which it will offer services on its oui.sncf site .
According to the “alliance” sealed Monday, BlaBlaCar must become 100% owner of Ouibus (formerly iDBUS) for an amount that has not been revealed, in order to “extend its offer, which will also open to other partners and local bus operators in Europe ”.
“Very, very strong complementarity”
“A lot of our carpoolers also take the bus and vice versa. We realize that there is a very, very strong complementarity ”, explained to AFP Nicolas Brusson, co-founder and CEO of BlaBlaCar.
“The evolution of BlaBlaCar is in fact opening up to shared mobility that is much broader than carpooling and therefore shared mobility on the road which includes the car and the bus, on a European, even global scale”, he insisted.
Concretely, the operation therefore aims to integrate Ouibus into the international network of BlaBlaCar – present in 22 countries and with a community of 65 million users – and to develop it.
SNCF’s “Macron cars” will undoubtedly change their name, even if “we do not yet know what we will call them,” noted Mr. Brusson.
The start-up has already started to develop its range of brands, by creating BlaBlaLines last year for its short-distance carpooling offers. It has already started bus trips in the spring, during the railway strike.
Before the sale, the management of Ouibus must continue the transformation of the company by completely abandoning the operation of coaches in favor of a model combining franchising and the use of subcontracting.
It will therefore give up the 10% of internal production it had kept, which must involve the departure of 95 employees (including 84 drivers). These will be reclassified in other subsidiaries of the SNCF, and “more than 500 offers have already been mobilized” for them, assured the latter to AFP.
Enemy turned ally
Ouibus, loss-making since its creation, claims first place in the “Macron coach” market, ahead of the German FlixBus and Isilines (a subsidiary of Transdev). It lost 45 million euros in 2016, 36 million last year, and aims for profitability in 2019-2020 after a “very good year” 2018, according to SNCF.
At the same time, the public group will participate, alongside existing investors, in a € 101 million capital increase for BlaBlaCar. It will have an observer seat on its board of directors.
“We want to believe in this story, that’s why we are participating in the fundraising”, underlined Rachel Picard, general manager of Voyages SNCF.
“A few years ago, BlaBlaCar could be considered as an enemy of TGV because it competes in the long distance. Today, we have a common enemy, it is the private car, ”she added to AFP.
Already associated with the SNCF via partnerships, the start-up born in 2004 will offer by the end of the year bus and carpooling trips on the oui.sncf reservation platform.
From summer 2019, oui.sncf customers will be able to combine train and coach, with carpooling to be added as a second step. “It will then be possible, to go from their point of departure to their point of arrival, to combine the modes of transport: train, bus and carpooling, and that in a few clicks”, noted the SNCF in a statement.
“This will help create more than 30,000 travel possibilities,” noted Rachel Picard.
This project is part of the strategy of SNCF, which wants to transform its oui.sncf site and its application into “a real personal mobility assistant” by integrating the transport solutions of other players in the sector.
“We are convinced that to make more trains, we must do more than train”, insists the boss of the SNCF Guillaume Pepy, quoted in the press release.