Dubai's Swvl to acquire UK smart mobility platform Zeelo in expansion push

Agreement gives mobility services provider immediate access to the US and South Africa markets

The deal will expand Swvl's footprint to 146 cities across 21 countries. Reuters
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Dubai-based shared mobility services provider Swvl has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire UK-based smart bus platform and technology start-up Zeelo, as it continues to expand globally.

The deal will expand Swvl's worldwide footprint to 146 cities across 21 countries, including immediate entry into two big markets, the US and South Africa, while boosting its sustainable business model, it said on Friday.

The terms of the deal, which is expected to be finalised in May, were not disclosed.

“Swvl and Zeelo share a vision and mission to provide reliable transportation that gets riders where they need to go in an affordable, safe and environmentally friendly manner,” said Mostafa Kandil, founder and chief executive of Swvl.

“Zeelo rapidly advances our leading market position as a provider of technology-enabled mass transit solutions on a global scale.”

Swvl's acquisition of Zeelo follows other agreements forged by the $1.5 billion company, which listed on the Nasdaq last month after merging with a special-purpose acquisition company (Spac).

Earlier this week, Swvl, which was incorporated in Cairo, agreed to acquire Turkish mass transit company Volt Lines to further expand its operations in Europe.

The company bought Berlin-based technology-enabled mass transit solutions provider door2door last month.

It also acquired a controlling stake in Shotl, an Uber-like service in Barcelona for bus and van operators, last August.

In November, it acquired a controlling interest in Argentina's Viapool to help its expansion within Latin America.

The mobility-as-a-service market was valued at about $12bn in 2020 and is projected to grow up to $60bn by 2026 at a compound annual rate of more than 30 per cent, according to Mordor Intelligence.

Zeelo offers daily bus commutes to frontline workers and students through contracts with organisations and family-run bus operator networks.

Its system is used by large businesses, staffing agencies, independent schools and universities across the UK, South Africa and the US.

The Zeelo acquisition is expected to help Swvl in supporting the shift from single-occupancy vehicles to zero-emission mass transit as it seeks to tap into opportunities in both the labour and education segments.

The deal would “firmly establish smart bus transport as the best-in-class shared mobility solution that takes account of all income levels and the needs of ordinary, every-day travellers”, said Sam Ryan, founder and chief executive of Zeelo.

“Bus transport done well with tech can take us beyond our dependency on cars and taxis, which are not suitable for commutes from non-urban areas … especially shift workers, professionals and students living in transport-poor areas in the developed markets.”

Swvl, which was founded in 2017, allows commuters to reserve seats on private buses operating on fixed routes and pay fares using its mobile app.

It has intercity and intra-city buses and offers transport services to business and governments.

The latest agreement will enable Swvl to offer business-to-business mobility solutions that reduce operational costs for its clients, the company said.

It also aims to tap into the light-delivery model by partnering with existing fleet partners, including more than 200 bus operators in the UK and the US.

Updated: May 17, 2023, 4:23 PM