The investment is the first following the first closing of Mercia Fund Managers’ £45.1million EV Growth II Fund in December 2017.
It will enable ParkCloud to further develop its highly successful parking reservation technology, build its management team and allow two of the original founders to exit.
Established in 2008, ParkCloud enables drivers to search, browse and pre-book parking spaces at over 2,000 car parks at airports, stations, ports and city centres worldwide. The company, which runs its worldwide operations from Manchester, has over 3 million registered users.
ParkCloud works in partnership with car park operators, which gain exposure to its international client base, and with airports and airlines, who receive commission from passengers who book parking through its site or one of its white label products. A European leader in its field, ParkCloud operates in 42 countries and around 80% of its revenue is from overseas. In 2014 it won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in recognition of its success in international trade.
The EV Growth II investment will give Mark Pegler, the Managing Director, a majority stake, allow co-founders Joseph Kennedy and Mark Pointon to step down, and, importantly, will provide further funding for growth. The company is planning to make a number of senior appointments in the coming months, and will further develop its e-commerce platform, and expand its partnerships with airports and airlines.
Mark Pegler, Managing Director of ParkCloud, said: “This year we celebrate ParkCloud’s 10th birthday, over which time we’ve established the ParkCloud brand and created a significant presence in markets worldwide. The start of our second decade will mark a step change for the company and having Mercia on board will help accelerate our growth. Our new structure supports our plans to explore new technologies, further enhancing the booking journey for our global network.”
Wayne Thomas, Jill Williams and Matt Molyneux from Mercia worked on the deal. Wayne Thomas, who leads the EV Growth team, said: “ParkCloud is the leading independent aggregator of its type and stands out within the industry due to its size and international reach. The business is well-positioned within the expanding travel market and has the potential for much further growth. This investment will allow Mark to pursue his growth strategy. We look forward to working with him as he continues to build the business.”
Jonathan Diggines, Chair of the EV Growth II Investment Committee, who was instrumental in raising the EV Growth Funds, said: “ParkCloud is just the sort of innovative and ambitious SME that the EV Growth II Fund will be backing. Our experience of investing in regional SMEs over the years shows that they don’t just need access to capital: they also need patient, long-term support.”
Sophie Colloby of Dow Schofield Watts Transaction Services provided financial due diligence for Mercia and management on the deal. Sophie said: “ParkCloud is an innovator in the car parking sector, this a particularly exciting time for Mark and his team as growth with UK car parks is really accelerating.”
Steven Lindsay at KJG Chartered Accountants provided fundraising advice for ParkCloud. Craig Scott at Hill Dickinson was legal adviser to Mercia, while Brabners advised the company.
Sunak to use budget to expand apprenticeships in England
LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak will announce more funding for apprenticeships in England when he unveils his budget next week, the government said on Friday.
Employers taking part in the Apprenticeship Initiative Scheme will from April 1 receive 3,000 pounds ($4,179) for each apprentice hired, regardless of age – an increase on current grants of between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds depending on age.
The scheme will extended by six months until the end of September, the finance ministry said.
Sunak will also announce an extra 126 million pounds for traineeships for up to 43,000 placements.
Sunak’s March 3 budget will likely include a new round of spending to prop up the economy during what he hopes will be the last phase of lockdown, but he will also probably signal tax rises ahead to plug the huge hole in the public finances.
Sunak is also expected to announce a “flexi-job” apprenticeship scheme, whereby apprentices can join an agency and work for multiple employers in one sector, the finance ministry said.
“We know there’s more to do and it’s vital this continues throughout the next stage of our recovery, which is why I’m boosting support for these programmes, helping jobseekers and employers alike,” Sunak said in a statement.
(Reporting by Andy Bruce, editing by David Milliken)
UK seeks G7 consensus on digital competition after Facebook blackout
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is seeking to build a consensus among G7 nations on how to stop large technology companies exploiting their dominance, warning that there can be no repeat of Facebook’s one-week media blackout in Australia.
Facebook’s row with the Australian government over payment for local news, although now resolved, has increased international focus on the power wielded by tech corporations.
“We will hold these companies to account and bridge the gap between what they say they do and what happens in practice,” Britain’s digital minister Oliver Dowden said on Friday.
“We will prevent these firms from exploiting their dominance to the detriment of people and the businesses that rely on them.”
Dowden said recent events had strengthened his view that digital markets did not currently function properly.
He spoke after a meeting with Facebook’s Vice-President for Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister.
“I put these concerns to Facebook and set out our interest in levelling the playing field to enable proper commercial relationships to be formed. We must avoid such nuclear options being taken again,” Dowden said in a statement.
Facebook said in a statement that the call had been constructive, and that it had already struck commercial deals with most major publishers in Britain.
“Nick strongly agreed with the Secretary of Stateâ€™s (Dowden’s) assertion that the governmentâ€™s general preference is for companies to enter freely into proper commercial relationships with each other,” a Facebook spokesman said.
Britain will host a meeting of G7 leaders in June.
It is seeking to build consensus there for coordinated action toward “promoting competitive, innovative digital markets while protecting the free speech and journalism that underpin our democracy and precious liberties,” Dowden said.
The G7 comprises the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Canada, but Australia has also been invited.
Britain is working on a new competition regime aimed at giving consumers more control over their data, and introducing legislation that could regulate social media platforms to prevent the spread of illegal or extremist content and bullying.
(Reporting by William James; Editing by Gareth Jones and John Stonestreet)
Britain to offer fast-track visas to bolster fintechs after Brexit
By Huw Jones
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Friday it would offer a fast-track visa scheme for jobs at high-growth companies after a government-backed review warned that financial technology firms will struggle with Brexit and tougher competition for global talent.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak said that now Britain has left the European Union, it wants to make sure its immigration system helps businesses attract the best hires.
“This new fast-track scale-up stream will make it easier for fintech firms to recruit innovators and job creators, who will help them grow,” Sunak said in a statement.
Over 40% of fintech staff in Britain come from overseas, and the new visa scheme, open to migrants with job offers at high-growth firms that are scaling up, will start in March 2022.
Brexit cut fintechs’ access to the EU single market and made it far harder to employ staff from the bloc, leaving Britain less attractive for the industry.
The review published on Friday and headed by Ron Kalifa, former CEO of payments fintech Worldpay, set out a “strategy and delivery model” that also includes a new 1 billion pound ($1.39 billion) start-up fund.
“It’s about underpinning financial services and our place in the world, and bringing innovation into mainstream banking,” Kalifa told Reuters.
Britain has a 10% share of the global fintech market, generating 11 billion pounds ($15.6 billion) in revenue.
The review said Brexit, heavy investment in fintech by Australia, Canada and Singapore, and the need to be nimbler as COVID-19 accelerates digitalisation of finance, all mean the sector’s future in Britain is not assured.
It also recommends more flexible listing rules for fintechs to catch up with New York.
“We recognise the need to make the UK attractive a more attractive location for IPOs,” said Britain’s financial services minister John Glen, adding that a separate review on listings rules would be published shortly.
“Those findings, along with Ron’s report today, should provide an excellent evidence base for further reform.”
Britain pioneered “sandboxes” to allow fintechs to test products on real consumers under supervision, and the review says regulators should move to the next stage and set up “scale-boxes” to help fintechs navigate red tape to grow.
“It’s a question of knowing who to call when there’s a problem,” said Kay Swinburne, vice chair of financial services at consultants KPMG and a contributor to the review.
A UK fintech wanting to serve EU clients would have to open a hub in the bloc, an expensive undertaking for a start-up.
“Leaving the EU and access to the single market going away is a big deal, so the UK has to do something significant to make fintechs stay here,” Swinburne said.
The review seeks to join the dots on fintech policy across government departments and regulators, and marshal private sector efforts under a new Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT).
“There is no framework but bits of individual policies, and nowhere does it come together,” said Rachel Kent, a lawyer at Hogan Lovells and contributor to the review.
($1 = 0.7064 pounds)
(Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by Jane Merriman and John Stonestreet)
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