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“Profitability is the topic that every investor is talking about”

Ahead of Bryan Garnier and Zag’s first mobility-focused event in London this week - we spoke with the investment bank’s Head of Mobility Florent Roulet on why cracking profitability is all anyone’s talking about

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This Thursday 18 April Zag Daily and Bryan Garnier will be hosting an exclusive event to tackle one central question – how to crack profitability in new mobility. 

Hopefully you are familiar with Zag but here’s a few top liners on Bryan Garnier. A European full-service investment bank with 200+ sector specialists across seven offices, advising innovative companies and their investors on both M&A, and private or public growth financing through equity and debt capital solutions. Since 1996, Bryan Garnier has completed more than 650 transactions with a cumulative deal value of over €40 billion.

Leading the Mobility practice is Florent Roulet who’s made investment banking his life’s work. Beginning with Bank of America Merrill Lynch and GP Bullhound, he then joined UBS before co-founding NOR Capital which Bryan Garnier went on to acquire in September 2023.

Zag: Why do we need an event focused on cracking profitability in new mobility and why now? 

Florent: “Profitability is the topic that every investor is talking about. In the last few months we have seen a swath of big players struggling to raise capital and going bankrupt – just look at Cityscoot, Bird, Superpedestrian, CAKE, to name a few. Some of this is down to external factors like the COVID-19 slowdown which prevented people from moving for almost two years, the Ukraine war and inflation which has made it difficult for a lot of technology businesses, but there is also undeniably a negative sentiment around mobility.” 

Zag: How would you describe the investment appetite for new mobility at the moment? 

Florent: “Cautious. What I’m seeing when I speak to investors is that they’re being extremely cautious, I would even say overly cautious. They tell me ‘Look, we don’t want to hear about mobility, a lot of investor money has been lost’. Every time I have a call with an investor, they say, ‘oh mobility, we haven’t seen many profitable businesses’. Blah, blah, blah. I just want to squash this narrative as there are actually some brilliant business models – look at Beryl or Vapaus. For us at Bryan Garnier, this is about being super selective and doubling down on advising those growth mobility companies with the models that work.”

Zag: Is that the point of this event then? To spotlight what is deemed an attractive business model?

Florent: “Yes, exactly. We will have a panel of entrepreneurs, investors and industry experts talking about the business models that are working and why. 

“I’m a big believer in some models and not in others. One area I really back is bike leasing. I think employers are very keen to offer sustainable options to their employees. And a number of businesses have emerged in Europe where there’s a need to provide this type of service to employees, and also domestic laws have encouraged this by subsidising it. If we look at employee bike benefit platform Vapaus from Finland for instance, they generated €4.5 million in net revenue in 2021 and €30+ million last year. This is sixfold growth in two years! Zenride is also doing very well in France.

“Another model we like is the B2G shared mobility business which is very different from the B2C model that some operators have adopted. Companies like Beryl, Fifteen, nextbike and Lyft’s PBSC have the security of long-term contracts with local authorities that are paying them fixed fees for managing bike or scooter sharing schemes, giving sufficient visibility on revenue. And at the same time, they get the upside of often being incentivised to manage the revenue side directly so they get the benefit of being paid much more revenue if the scheme is successful.” 

Zag: Why are you interested in the new mobility sector and what experience does Bryan Garnier bring? 

Florent: “I’ve been involved in the mobility sector for almost ten years now. I don’t own a car myself and am very much addicted to a lot of the new mobility services. Not just Uber or Bolt, but a lot of the shared mobility operators whether it’s e-bikes, e-scooters or e-mopeds, and I also use the Mobility-as-a-Service and car-sharing apps. So I’ve been a user for many years, but it is also a relatively mature sector and very attractive in terms of transaction activity.

“For Bryan Garnier, we have a dedicated pan-European team of 20+ mobility specialists split between our corporate finance and research activities. We have broken our mobility coverage down into four main verticals – EV ecosystem, Mobility Services, Software and Batteries and look to act on a global scale, but think local thanks to our presence in all key European geographies.” 

Zag: Can you share some of the deals you or your Bryan Garnier colleagues closed last year?

Florent: “In 2023, I sold Amodo which is a Croatian InsurTech telematics business which we sold to CMT, the largest telematics service providers in the world backed by SoftBank’s Vision Fund and General Catalyst. Under the battery vertical, we advised lithium-extraction leader Adionics by raising $27m for them. We also raised $275m in equity and green convertible bonds for Nikola Corporation which is a publicly listed commercial transportation company. Last year in France, we advised on a leveraged buyout for DriiveMe which is a digital logistic solution provider. Hence, these are four transactions we completed across our four verticals, demonstrating that there is a real market for new mobility across Europe.

“Our job is essentially to find the right chemistry or the right match between entrepreneurs on one side, and investors or buyers on the other side. That’s why I think people should come to this event to learn about how we see things and if I can get a group of investors in the room and alter their perception by the time they leave, I think that’d be a good achievement.”

Zag: What are you most looking forward to about this event? 

Florent: “I always think that the panels at conferences are a must, but they’re way too often the most boring thing ever. We want to make this a lively chat that’s interactive and fun, even if we don’t agree on everything. For me, the second part is the networking which is super important. I want people who don’t know each other to just meet, speak about their own businesses, talk over a wine or beer where you get to know somebody that you didn’t know before. And then there’s always a good connection or a commercial partnership to consider. That’s what I find most valuable about these events. We want to create a nice atmosphere that is not too stiff.

“With the theme, I honestly feel that profitability is the key topic for this industry. There’s no denying we’re in a down moment and this switch needs to be flipped in 2024 so that entrepreneurs feel excited about being the CEO of a mobility company and investors come away from this event thinking ‘right, I’m missing something here if I don’t invest in one of them’”.