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French carpooling app BlaBlaCar secures $108 million so it can ‘buy other firms and grow larger’

French carpooling app BlaBlaCar secures $108 million so it can 'buy other firms and grow larger'

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BlaBlaCar, the Paris-based online car-pooling service, has raised a €100 million ($108 million) credit line so it can buy other firms and grow larger before going public.

The company reached its first full year of profitability in 2023 after a “pretty rough” pandemic, according to Chief Executive Officer Nicolas Brusson. Net sales grew 29% last year and the company said 80 million passengers booked travel through its app.

Just before Covid-19 hit, Brusson was talking up a public listing within the next few years. Not anymore. “We’re not in a process to do an IPO and I don’t think we will be fairly soon,” he said in an interview this week, adding that the company needed to grow two or three times bigger. “Hence, the focus is to stay private, do the type of financing we just did, and grow.”

BlaBlaCar, founded in 2006, is one of France’s earliest unicorns and hit on the idea of on-demand trip-sharing long before Uber Technologies Inc. took off. The company began as a platform to connect drivers and riders heading the same way, taking a cut of as much as 20% on each trip. It never launched in the US, possibly costing it exposure and a faster path to growth.

Starting 2018, the company expanded into buses, acquiring travel operators in France and eastern Europe. Bus trips now account for about a fifth of sales, said Brusson, and as much as a third in some markets.

Revenue crashed during the pandemic, when travel and car-pooling ground to a halt. Net sales dropped from about €130 million in 2019 to €80 million in 2020, but climbed to €253 million last year. Brusson said he managed that rebound without any job cuts or furloughs. 

BlaBlaCar did raise money during this period, bringing in €97 million in 2021, giving the company a $2 billion valuation. Brusson declined to share whether the valuation has changed.

The CEO said the new credit infusion will mostly be used to acquire smaller online travel marketplaces and agencies. He mentioned looking particularly at fast-growing markets like Brazil, Mexico and India. “It does not make sense to raise equity and take a massive dilution if you’re profitable,” Brusson said.

The revolving credit facility comes from eight banks, including BNP Paribas SA, Societe Generale SA and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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