Sunday 25 February 2018

Kerry's Mobacar hits €20m valuation after Auto Europe deal

Mobacar's technology helps to connect airlines and online travel agents with car-rental and other transport providers
Mobacar's technology helps to connect airlines and online travel agents with car-rental and other transport providers
Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

Kerry-based travel-technology company Mobacar has hit a €20m valuation following a strategic deal with online car-rental business Auto Europe.

The deal will position Mobacar and US-owned AutoEurope as a key challenger to Irish success story Cartrawler.

AutoEurope, which is owned by New York private equity firm Courtsquare, and Dublin private equity firm Delta Partners invested an amount thought to be in the region of €4m in Mobacar as part of the deal.

This is not the first time Delta Partners has invested in the company. Prior to this deal, it had already invested €4m in the business, whose other backers include Enterprise Ireland.

The investment gives Auto Europe a minority stake in Mobacar. Its chief executive officer, Imad Khalidi, will be joining the Killarney company's board.

Mobacar's founder is Cork man Mike Webster, who spun it off from Kerry financial software company Fexco 18 months ago. Previously a senior executive at Fexco, he bought its car-rental software business in early 2014 and turned it into Mobacar.

Mobacar is a business-to-business company. Its technology connects airlines and online travel agents with car-rental and other transport providers, including helicopters, mobile homes and motorbike-rental services.

Having invested heavily in data scientists, it offers products tailored to individual customers, based on their predicted buying habits. Over 100 online travel agents and eight airlines already use its services.

The company is emerging as an important competitor to Cartrawler, the car-hire technology business created by brothers Niall and Greg Turley, which recently signed a major deal with Ryanair.

Cartrawler was sold last year to BC Partners for €450m. It was once reported to have bid for AutoEurope.

The cash injection will allow it to grow its staff to 41 people at its Killarney headquarters, creating jobs for data scientists, developers and business development executives.

As part of the deal, Mobacar's software will be linked to Auto Europe's vast network of car-rental options.

AutoEurope is one of the biggest car-hire aggregator websites in the world; its offering spans 20,000 car rental locations.

It processes 2.5 million bookings a year and has 600 staff working across services centres in Maine, Munich and Sydney.

Webster said the partnership will disrupt a stagnant non-data driven industry. "From Kerry, Mobacar have been at the forefront of the development of retail intelligence technology for the travel industry.

"Based on these innovations, Auto Europe and Mobacar see the huge potential in partnering Mobacar's technology and AE's global supply and unparalleled service.

"Airlines and online travel agencies have been duped for years and have sleepwalked into car-rental solutions that overprice their customers, drive poor conversions, are poorly serviced and drive absolutely no loyalty to the online travel retailer's brand.

"This strategic partnership means that from today airlines and online travel agencies can offer their consumers something absolutely unique through Mobacar's retail intelligence platform, be it for car rental, motor homes, airport transfers or luxury cars, all matched by the best global customer service and supply network in Auto Europe.

"This solution offers online travel agencies and airlines with the best customer service and commercial offering in the market."

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