In 2019, Blacklane’s CEO Jens Wohltorf let slip that an IPO could take place as soon as 2022.
“This would be a natural evolution of our business model and our traction to IPO in the next years to come. That’s pretty realistic,” Wohltorf told Reuters at the time.
Then, of course, the pandemic hit and crushed demand for black car chauffeur services in London, Dubai, LA, NY and Singapore and the rest of the world. In Blacklane's case, its bread and butter business of airport transfers slowed to a halt as airlines were grounded, with revenues dropping a massive 99%. The timing was particularly painful as Blacklane was on the verge of becoming profitable pre-pandemic.
“In April, revenues slumped to 1%, and since then we have started to reinvent ourselves, roll up our sleeves and fight our way out,” Wohltorf told Reuters in October last year.
"revenues slumped to 1%, and since then we have started to reinvent ourselves" - Jens Wohltorf, Blacklane CEO
Why should investors care?
While companies like Uber [UBER] have been able to successfully diversify into food delivery, Blacklane’s premium status meant that this wasn’t an option. In October, the company launched flat-rate intercity travel in an order to rebuild its lost revenue. Per Reuters, Blacklane said that revenue was back at between 30% and 50% of pre-pandemic levels in October.
Earlier this month, the company said its chauffeur-hailing service now covered 22 cities, including New York, Los Angeles and London, and operates in 11 countries. The service charges by distance to avoid excess fares caused by traffic jams.
Blacklane also recently secured €22m in funding to expand its sustainable travel options, along with its existing business. Investors in Blacklane’s latest round of funding come from Daimler [DAI], btov Partners and the UAE’s ALFAHIM Group. So far, the company has raised $100m in total. There is no word yet on the valuation placed on Blacklane following the latest round of funding — a key number for any would-be investor should Blackline IPO.
The funding comes after Blacklane picked up a majority stake in Havn, a London-based EV car service created by Jaguar, in February. According to a press release, this will “accelerate the electrification of its global fleet”, with the first step being chauffeur-hailing services in Amsterdam, London and Milan provided by electric vehicles (EV).
“The global travel and mobility industries have suffered, with several players struggling between drastic cuts, hibernation or ceasing operations. Blacklane has taken the opportunity to cater to travelers’ emerging needs. Thanks to this financing, we will continue to fast-track our innovation, with zero layoffs,” Wohltorfin said in a statement.
"Thanks to this financing, we will continue to fast-track our innovation, with zero layoffs" - Jens Wohltorf, Blacklane CEO
Will Blacklane IPO?
If and when Blacklane IPOs will depend on the return of business travel. With white-collar executives having done business from home via Zoom or Google Meet calls, a return to the same level of pre-pandemic business travel could be a way off, even as vaccines are rolled out.
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly told CNBC in October that it could be 10 years before business travel returns to pre-pandemic levels. While the Wall Street Journal reported that Delta Air Lines boss Ed Bastian told investors in January that a customer survey forecast that circa 70% of pre-pandemic corporate travel will resume by 2023.
So, will Blacklane IPO in 2022? In short, a Blacklane IPO might still be a way off. However, diversification, quality investors and the ability to raise capital bode well for the company. It could certainly be one for investors to keep tabs on.
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