Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Big Car Sharing News

You may remember that I am interested in car sharing. You may also remember that I stated that I didn't think car sharing was a good investment. You are going to hear a lot about Zipcar being bought by Avis today. This may be a mutually beneficial agreement: Avis gets in to the hot car-sharing market, and gets to leverage its much larger business for Zipcar's benefit. (I'm assuming it will be run as a separate brand; they stand to lose a lot of cache, especially in competitive markets, if they drop the successful Zipcar marketing.)

But as for the investment piece: yes, investors are getting a 50% premium on the current stock price (ZIP), and almost double the recent lows it hit this year. It's also 2/3 the price of the IPO a year ago, and less than half of the post-IPO heights Zipcar realized in 2011. So anyone who got excited about Zipcar and bought stock at the IPO price or above is going to take a haircut. And Avis Budget (CAR) doesn't appear to be a major growth property.

This sale doesn't mean that car sharing is mature, but that it is growing. Independent CSOs will continue to have a foothold  in several cities, competing with Zipcar and keeping prices down in those markets (see, in particular, Chicago and San Francisco in the US, Toronto and Vancouver in Canada; and then there's Montreal where Communauto is such a force that Zipcar has steered clear). It will be interesting to watch this market continue to evolve.

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