Case study: SABA

Why location planning has unlocked growth 

Saba

Problem

Saba, the Spain-headquartered parking operator, had achieved a position of dominance in its core markets since its 2011 launch. However, leadership knew that it needed to undertake a business restructuring if it was to fulfil its goal of leading the European market in parking infrastructure management.

A new strategic approach would be necessary to take the company to the next level and deliver consistent and sustainable growth.

Decision

Leadership identified primary growth markets to target, and set about implementing this vision through mapping the most suitable geographic locations to position its parking venues. Location planning had always been a key part of the company’s initial success, and it sought to export this model as it entered new territories.

With this strategic vision and emphasis on location as part of its selective growth plans in place, Saba focused on opportunities in central Europe and the United Kingdom. Given the differing levels of maturity of this sector in countries throughout Europe, as well as the differing levels of car park evolution due to things like the adoption of electric vehicles and therefore the need for charging points, Saba realised that it could benefit from existing infrastructure assets in certain jurisdictions. While this would remove (or at least reduce) the need for Saba to ‘start from scratch’, it did require a thought-out approach to selecting acquisition targets.

In December 2018 Saba decided to partner with Indigo Group, world leader in parking and individual mobility solutions. Through this targeted acquisition strategy, Saba took ownership of all the shares of Indigo’s companies in the UK, Germany, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

As part of this asset restructure, Saba divested from logistics parks to allow it to focus on international growth and on bringing greater efficiency to its operations.

These tactical moves, along with a corporate refinancing, were made possible by the solid financial bedrock Saba had built up. Since 2011, it had accumulated investment of more than €580 million.

With Indigo’s existing assets on board, Saba could focus on innovating and providing a more customer-centric proposition. It already had key locations in its portfolio, including basing operations near key transport hubs, historic centres, commercial districts and hospitals. It could now look at improvements geared towards future-proofing the business, such as prioritising sustainability and social responsibility.

It was a pioneer in implementing the VIA-T electronic toll system, as well as in utilising QR technology via its mobile app. In the same way as many retailers have had to adapt to the new world of (e)commerce, Saba is leading the charge in changing the traditional model so that its venues are treated as service hubs, and not just a place for people to leave their car while they go shopping. Saba’s new business model is therefore much more digitally focused and centred around providing a seamless and efficient ‘experience’ for users.

Outcome

Saba’s growth strategy is already bearing fruit. Its market-leading position has been solidified and it now boasts 384,500 parking spaces and 1,200 car parks in nine countries across Europe and Latin America. Capacity has grown dramatically, as has staff headcount, with the workforce increasing by more than 50% to 2,300 employees.

Such expansion efforts have seen the company add a significant presence in the UK, Germany, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, as well as bolstering its position in Spain, Italy and Portugal.

Aside from driving its own commercial growth, Saba is taking a leading role in driving industry change, keeping sustainable urban mobility at the heart of everything it does.