Carpool unicorn BlaBlaCar to buy a bus-booking platform in its 'biggest' acquisition yet

Key Points
  • BlaBlaCar is buying bus-booking platform Busfor for an undisclosed amount.
  • The deal is BlaBlaCar's "biggest" acquisition to date, its CEO says.
  • It will see Busfor's 150 employees join BlaBlaCar.
BlaBlacar co-founder and CEO Nicolas Brusson poses in front of the first low-cost company BlaBlaBus' bus, on June 11, 2019 in Lyon, southeastern France.
Philippe Desmazes | AFP | Getty Images

French carpooling start-up BlaBlaCar has offered to buy Eastern European bus-booking platform Busfor for an undisclosed amount, the company said Tuesday.

The deal is the company's "biggest" acquisition to date and gives it the opportunity to provide a "multimodal" transport marketplace in new regions, CEO Nicolas Brusson told CNBC in an interview.

BlaBlaCar sells a ride-sharing service for long-distance trips across Europe and other places like Russia and Brazil. It's made significant inroads in Russia and Ukraine, and claims to have 25 million users in total across that region.

The firm has also been upping its investment in buses, buying French business Ouibus last year from the country's state rail operator SNCF and rebranding the company as BlaBlaBus.

"Hundreds of millions of passengers uses buses all the time," Brusson said. "It's the dominant — if not only sometimes — transport solutions between cities."

Busfor operates in Russia, Ukraine and Poland, with offices in Moscow, Kyiv and Warsaw. The acquisition will no doubt boost BlaBlaCar in its ambitions to grab a significant chunk of the ride-sharing market in Eastern Europe.

But Brusson said BlaBlaCar's expansion in the region wouldn't see it compete directly with Uber or ride-hailing firm Yandex.Taxi, which itself is the result of a merger between Uber and Russian internet firm Yandex.

"We don't compete with Uber in any market, whether it's Europe or Latin America, and that's the same in Russia and Ukraine," Brusson said. BlaBlaCar focuses on intercity travel rather than the short-distance trips that players like Uber and Estonia's Bolt operate, he added.

Paris-headquartered BlaBlaCar, which lets people hitch a ride with motorists heading in the same direction, is one of France's top unicorn companies, or private firms with a valuation of $1 billion or more. Its investors include SNCF and venture capital giants Accel and Index Ventures.

The deal will see Busfor's 150 employees join BlaBlaCar, Brusson said. Busfor currently operates 7,000 bus carriers in its respective markets. The news follows Uber's decision earlier this year to buy Middle Eastern competitor Careem for $3.1 billion.

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BlaBlaCar CEO: Consolidation in the mobility space is 'just starting'
BlaBlaCar CEO: Consolidation in the mobility space is 'just starting'