COMBINED STRENGTH FOR THE FUTURE
Cale develops and markets parking solutions worldwide. The company is one of Mellby Gård’s oldest holdings and also underwent the greatest change over the year. Through a merger with Parkeon of France, a parking giant was created, holding 70 percent of the world market. The group’s new name is Flowbird.
Johan Andersson was Chairman of Cale and now represents Mellby Gård’s as a member of the French company’s Board of Directors:
“We saw that the industry is changing rapidly and with digitalization as the driving force. This brings new competition from both start-ups and major car brands, which are in the process of creating their own payment solutions for parking,” says Johan Andersson who initiated the merger.
The transaction, which was signed in January 2018, entails Mellby Gård becoming a minority shareholder in Flowbird, with approximately 23 percent of the shares. The majority shareholder, with a 67 percent holding, is the French venture capital fund Astorg.
“Like other venture capital funds, Astorg has an exit horizon. This involves a different environment than that familiar to Mellby Gård, which works with long-term ownership. In this case, however, we perceive such substantial opportunities, synergies and exchange of technical know-how that we can justify an exception to our ownership philosophy,” says Johan Andersson.
The creation of Flowbird is visionary and motivated by industrial logic. This involves the merger of two healthy companies that are leaders in their individual markets. Until the merger, Anton Kaya was MD and CEO of Cale and, in the new group, he will be Senior Vice President of the Digital City business area, responsible for research and development:
“The operations are doing very well. We achieved strong earnings in the preceding year and entered this year at a high pace. Both order bookings and earnings have improved. Even without the merger with Parkeon, I would have expected continued growth,” he says.
Cale’s core business is parking machines, which are primarily sold to municipalities through public procurement. About 60 percent of income derives from sales of these machines, the remaining 40 percent from service and IT system services. However, a modern parking machine bears little resemblance the analogue ticket machines of old. The latest generation does not provide tickets but instead records the car’s registration number. The data is cloud-based, making monitoring more efficient and will, in the future, allow drivers to receive information on available parking spaces.
The parking machine is nonetheless being challenged by new solutions including mobile apps. Here, Cale operates under the WayToPark brand and Parkeon has several proprietary brands. However, the physical machine still has a lot to offer in terms of both sales and innovation.
“In the spring, we signed an agreement with the City of Chicago for nearly 5,000 machines. This was our largest individual order to date. In 2009, the city invested in nearly 4,000 Cale machines. The machines are an important component in the infrastructure surrounding regulated and charged parking. We are seeing demand beginning to slow in mature markets where interest in fully digital solutions is increasing, although there is still considerable need in many countries, particularly in Asia and South America,” says Anton Kaya.
The parking machines, and the network they constitute, will also play a central role in the smart city of the future. Urbanization means the world’s cities are growing and, with that, car traffic is increasing. Major cities urgently need to streamline and regulate traffic and mobility. With hundreds of thousands of interconnected parking machines, municipalities are afforded substantial opportunities to gather intelligent data on traffic flows, where cars are parked, at what times and for how long. Another possibility is to combine parking machines with charging stations for electric vehicles.
“More than 15 percent of all car driving in cities occurs as drivers seek available parking spaces. There are great environmental benefits and logistics improvements to be gained here, and we have only seen the beginning of this development,” says Anton Kaya.
He also points out that Flowbird provides an independent parking system unlike that of competitors including Volkswagen and BMW who are developing proprietary parking services for their own vehicles. In the relationship with municipal customers worldwide, this independence is a great asset. Johan Andersson summarizes:
“We are at the start of our journey with Parkeon and Astorg. Over the coming year, we will have a lot of work to do integrating the two companies. Mellby Gård is the second-largest owner of the company and we will have to act accordingly, but we know we are respected for our expertise in the industry and I am convinced that this is the right way to go to maintain a leading position in an industry undergoing rapid change.”