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Tim Albertsen (ALD): «LeasePlan fits very well with the ALD spirit and culture»

Share & Fleet

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Autor

Juan Arús
Juan Arús
Periodista económico apasionado en transformar objetivos en resultados, Juan Arús (Madrid, 1975) ha trabajado para diversos medios de comunicación escritos de España, generalmente económicos y habitualmente en las secciones de Empresas y Automoción. Gran aficionado a la moda masculina, cuenta con un vasto repertorio de artículos de referencia publicados sobre vestuario clásico en diferentes medios. Edita y dirige Fleet People desde 2015.

Surely, Danish born Tim Albertsen could not even imagine —and it can only be the first question we put to him— what has happened to him in just two years as world manager of the French multinational ALD Automotive. And it’s already going to about 30 in the fleet sector. Covid-19, semiconductors, and now the mother of all mergers in the fleet sector. He accepts it naturally. He came to ALD from a rent-a-car, Hertz, and reached the top without being part of the historical hard core of the group. It is a way of understanding multiculturalism, the different options, the variety of visions and their acceptance. That is why the union with LeasePlan is so “simple”. Because it means opening your mind, understanding the culture of another giant and assimilating and integrating it with wisdom. It is clear that Albertsen knows what he is doing. And also that he has very hard months left. What you are going to read next is the first interview granted to a Spanish Media after learning about the agreement with LeasePlan. It goes for you.

 

 

FLEET PEOPLE: I would like to ask you if you had ever imagined a situation like this in your professional life because it’s impressive – for the automotive sector and the fleet sector. Nobody could have imagined that that such a union could happen in the business of fleets and corporate vehicle sector.

TIM ALBERTSEN: I think you’re right; it is a bit surprising to some extent, I guess for everyone in this industry that the 2 biggest in the world have joined forces. Having said that, as a group when we did the IPO in 2017 the idea was to create for ALD the opportunity to be part of a larger consolidation of this industry. To be very honest if we hadn’t been listed this deal would probably not have been feasible, because you know we are paying partly with shares and with that the shareholders of LeasePlan are getting a part of the upside of what is ahead of us and that has been very important. So, I guess as professionals, and I think Pedro would say the same, that it’s a bit difficult to imagine 5 years ago that we would be joining forces with LeasePlan, but having said that we all had in mind that there could be some type of consolidation coming and that’s pretty much where we are. It’s very exciting and a bit surprising, you’re right.

 

 

 

 

Tim Albertsen (ALD): «LeasePlan fits very well with the ALD spirit and culture»

«We all had in mind that there could be some type of consolidation coming and that’s pretty much where we are. It’s very exciting and a bit surprising»

 

 

 

 

FLEET PEOPLE: What exactly is ALD looking for with this deal? What is the fundamental objective of ALD Automotive and its parent company, Société Générale, to formalize this agreement with LeasePlan? Is the plan more focused on Société Générale or ALD?

TIM ALBERTSEN: I think clearly it’s part of a very joined up plan. I think if we talk about Société Générale first, Société Générale has been a shareholder for many years now and has always been a very strong shareholder of ours. They’ve always supported us – even in 2008 and 2009 when we had a severe crisis they continually supported us. The same in 2011 and 2012 when there was a liquidity crisis they never stopped ALD from growing and a very good example is actually Spain where we have done a lot of acquisitions. Also at times when things were a bit..you just saw Banco Sabadell in the middle of a pandemic… so they’ve always had a very strong focus on ALD without us being really core to the bank of course. Today I think the bank has understood – you might have seen that they have now announced that we are – that mobility is a kind of third pillar of the bank – and that’s mainly because mobility is a growth area. It’s also because what we’re doing, especially our ALD business, is that we are their funding assets, but we have a lot of services around them, and that is what all banks are looking for today: to have a financial product where you can actually wrap services around it to create a kind of stickiness with their customers and the ALD business is perfect for that – or this industry is perfect for that. Then I think that when you look at what is in it for ALD and is it a part of a bigger plan for ALD – and clearly it is, I think it’s probably much more relevant today this deal than it was 5 years ago. I mean if we had done this deal just to become double the size, let’s say, today it’s much more around actually developing and remaining a leader in the mobility sector which is developing very fast where you see that competition is changing. If you take our Move 2025 Plan, you could say that this, let’s say combination, is a severe acceleration of our 5-year strategic plan 2025. And it makes a lot of sense today of course to join forces and to become even more important in the sector. I think there’s a very good balance between the Société Générale objectives and our objectives as a group, and again you know the ownership by Société Générale is important and will remain very important even if they get diluted to some extent in terms of ownership, but they will remain a controlling shareholder and they will remain a very important funder of this business as well.

 

 

FLEET PEOPLE: The creation of a new mega-company, called ‘New ALD’, may raise questions from the European Union in terms of Competition. How are you going to manage this new company in those countries where both ALD and LeasePlan hold a dominant market position in terms of fleet?

TIM ALBERTSEN: Of course the transaction will need approval from the European antitrust authorities, but also in some other parts of the world, in LATAM and in Russia and a few other markets where they want to of course approve this deal. And it’s true of course if you look at our business in the traditional way, we’ve become big I guess in many markets. Having said that, as I said before, competition is moving very fast and you might have seen a couple of months ago Volkswagen, Stellantis and all the others are out there… actually Volkswagen claimed that there must be an option so, that’s good enough. And Stellantis have joined forces with Crédit Agricole to make a company that will be competing with us and they’re already there with Free2Move and you have RCI Bank. So today in the market the boundaries are much more blurry than they were just a couple of years ago. And with that way of looking at the market, we’re not – there’s no significant size in most markets for us as such.

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«Of course the transaction will need approval from the European antitrust authorities, but in today’s market the boundaries are much more blurry than they were just a couple of years ago. And with that way of looking at the market, we’re not – there’s no significant size in most markets for us as such»

 

 

 

FLEET PEOPLE: Is the company’s commitment to fully integrate LeasePlan and all its areas or does it not rule out getting rid of divisions of the company, of LeasePlan, with which ALD perhaps have too many duplications in some countries and may not be viewed favorably by the Competition authorities?

TIM ALBERTSEN: I think duplication is mainly in terms of fleets and of course there could be some of our clients who will stay only with ALD and LeasePlan and mightn’t want to have a new supplier when we merge. But overall I think the size is important. We know that scale is very important in this business so clearly we anticipate keeping the fleets on both sides. And ALD and LeasePlan have had a bit of a different approach to the market in the past where – and specifically I’ve seen that in Spain – we’re distributing a lot of our business through our partners, either banks of manufacturers, and so we have a kind of a partnership model that I think is second to none in Europe today. LeasePlan have stayed more loyal to the traditional business with the big international key accounts and the corporates. So actually, in the combination we get the best footprint basically in all the segments we go to. And of course the aim, the objective is to keep that because I think it’s a very important part of what we should actually get out of this deal, that we come out on the other side much stronger in every single segment, every single market that we’re active in.

 

 

 

 

Tim Albertsen (ALD): «LeasePlan fits very well with the ALD spirit and culture»

 

 

 

 

FLEET PEOPLE: Do you consider that the consolidation of the European fleet sector is over? Do you expect some more moves from Arval or Orix, for example?

TIM ALBERTSEN: I think normally when these kind of things happen it triggers perhaps other activities as well, but it depends a bit how you look at it. If you want to remain a player in our old world, as it were, being a good provider and partner to make international clients and corporates I think you would not necessarily need to consolidate a whole lot more. I think what ALD will do with this together with LeasePlan is that we want to become a global provider for sustainable mobility, which means it’s not just corporates it’s as much [about] private individuals going forward and it’s around a lot of different solutions like subscriptions and multi-mobility. So if you want to be a player in that game you need scale because again the competition will look very different from what we have been used to. But if you want to play to some extent in a niche of the market, I think you can do that without necessarily having to consolidate further.

 

 

 

«If you want to remain a player in our old world, as it were, being a good provider and partner to make international clients and corporates I think you would not necessarily need to consolidate a whole lot more»

 

 

 

 

FLEET PEOPLE: In which areas do you think ALD can benefit more from LeasePlan assets, and vice versa?

TIM ALBERTSEN: Well I think there are a lot of areas where LeasePlan can benefit from ALD [laughs]. To be honest, as I said before we are actually quite different in the way we have gone to market. Also in terms of some of our, take assets, if we take again the fact that ALD are second to none when it comes to partnerships and we are not bad in the corporate space, we have a lot of mandates constantly, but LeasePlan have been really good at developing a really solid supply with really big corporates. And they’ve also been really good at developing, over the last couple of years, last mile delivery and they have a few very big contracts with some of the most prominent e-commerce businesses, where we are not really there. So that’s another part where there is a very interesting match. And again if you look at the way we have been developing our check assets, we have been very strong in developing our front-ends – so we have some really strong front-ends to our partners and to our corporates whereas actually LeasePlan have been this past couple of years focusing much more on the back office trying to digitalize their back offices. So again, it’s too early to say because we don’t know the details, but we think there could be perhaps a very interesting mesh there as well. So, I think in terms of culture, LeasePlan is the pioneer in our industry, they still have a very entrepreneurial spirit and that fits very well with the ALD spirit and culture so I think on the cultural side and regarding our DNA we are not that far from each other. Then again we have seen the market in a bit of a different way and hence we have developed in different ways to the markets and segments, and I think that’s where we can have a really strong fit when we get through the integration.

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FLEET PEOPLE: The growth of the operational lease business in Latin America is indisputable and companies like yours are betting a lot on this market. Does the merger with LeasePlan seek to take advantage of this market? Are you considering a possible entry into the United States market, even if the business model in this country is different?

TIM ALBERTSEN: On the first question around LATAM, you’re right – we’ve been investing heavily in the last years with a lot of support from good people and good customers from Spain. If you take LeasePlan, they have a presence in Brazil and in Mexico so the combination there will help us to compete because we are not that big in those 2 markets compared to some of the local players. So of course here on in we gain scale with the combination and we will not stop our development, you know we’re now in Colombia, Peru and Chile outside of Mexico and Brazil. We are looking for other opportunities and clearly if there are more acquisitions to be done and markets where there are more, let’s say, mergers to be done, we would be very happy to do that. It’s a very interesting continent; I think that we have a great footprint there now in South America. In the US it’s a bit of a different situation because as you know we have a partnership with Wheels, it’s now Wheels-Donlen, we just merged. For many many years… it was a conscious decision in 2008 to withdraw from the US, because as you said, it’s a bit of a different model. And obviously we don’t have the size, I don’t even think we have the – we don’t have a lot of things to actually provide the American market. I think there are some really good players there – especially our partner, who is very good. Now, LeasePlan has been there for many years; we don’t know their business very well, to be very honest, and hence we have to have a better look at that business to understand the prospects in terms of growth and the prospects in terms of returns. It’s a decision we will take a bit later on in terms of where we are in the US market. But we’re really happy with our strategic partnership with Wheels-Donlen today.

 

 

 

Tim Albertsen (ALD): «LeasePlan fits very well with the ALD spirit and culture»

«LeasePlan have been really good at developing a really solid supply with really big corporates. And they’ve also been really good at developing, over the last couple of years, last mile delivery and they have a few very big contracts with some of the most prominent e-commerce businesses»

 

 

 

 

FLEET PEOPLE: How do you plan to compensate for the fact that LeasePlan no longer has such an important asset as CarNext in the remarketing business? The business of selling second-hand cars represents billions of euros a year and CarNext contributed with 250,000 used vehicles on a yearly basis…

TIM ALBERTSEN: Yes, we think that CarNext is an interesting model. In terms of the trade part and to some extent in terms of even retail, we have always been really well positioned in terms of remarketing ourselves. It’s true that LeasePlan carved out CarNext I guess it was in June last year and it’s now sold into Constellation which is owned by one of the big shareholders of LeasePlan and this big partner of PCGA and a few other… So, I think the way we see that is first of all we actually become a small shareholder in Constellation, and where we like the CarNext model is that they want to go retail, so they want to become a digital retail business in Europe, and we think they have a good chance to get there. So what we have with this combination now with this transaction is: first of all we become a small shareholder of Constellation, we also get an agreement with CarNext, so there is an agreement where we actually channel – and we have to channel a certain number of cars through CarNext – and we have a mechanism that ensures us the minimum price we would get on an ALD trade price, and if they are very good and they sell more retail, that will be to our benefit. We still remain with the ALD car market which will be the majority of our sales, and we also still remain with our retail outlet that we have today and then we’ll have to see how CarNext develops and how they evolve and if they evolve well we might review our retail strategy on our own, but it’s way too soon to say. For the next couple of years I think we will stay with Carmarket as our core remarketing platform and this agreement with CarNext will take a part of the cars and we’ll see how they get along with this market.

 

 

«I think we believe in the fact that for some years there will still be room for diesel cars, there will still be room for petrol cars and of course we will be making sure that there are products and services around electric vehicles»

 

 

 

FLEET PEOPLE: Does ALD plan to enter more strongly into the growing used-car business through an agreement with TDR Capital, which currently manages more than 2.2 million online sales of used cars? They are the lead European traders.

TIM ALBERTSEN: There is already an agreement. When LeasePlan carved out CarNext there was an agreement between CarNext and LeasePlan, basically selling all their cars. We have rewritten that agreement so that there is a part of these cars coming back on the LeasePlan side that will be destined to CarNext. That’s an agreement that’s in place and we’ll see how it works. What we have done is we have secured a minimum price that is at the level of the ALD car market which means we are not shuffling – we are not sacrificing any profits coming from remarketing – and of course we see that as an opportunity to sell more retail articles across Europe as CarNext develops.

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Tim Albertsen (ALD): «LeasePlan fits very well with the ALD spirit and culture»

 

 

 

FLEET PEOPLE: The automotive sector is betting very strongly on new subscription formulas in the field of operational leasing, acquiring companies such as Bipi. You have an agreement with BlaBlaCar. Is it an attractive market for ALD Automotive? Does ALD see these companies and their customers as future underwriters for your products? Could we see movements, in terms of purchases from ALD in the next years?

TIM ALBERTSEN: Clearly I think it’s got to be part of the mobility offering, whether it’s corporates or whether it’s consumer – clearly we have a big focus on this. You might have seen that we bought Fleetpool in Germany. Fleetpool is a subscription model and clearly the idea is that Fleetpool will be rolled out in some European markets. I think in Spain we already have a very good footprint with ALD Flex and also I guess we still work with Bipi in Spain if I’m not mistaken. I think subscription will become part of our core frame no doubt. And then of course there are a lot of models out there that are very strong either in an e-commerce capacity on their digital platforms, and as you said, we work with BlaBlaCar today and we work with Bipi and if there are others like that we’re happy to work with these people if they bring new customers to us. So it’s not that because now we have Fleetpool that that’s the only player we’re going to have; we will have several. I guess both Bipi and BlaBlaCar are very much consumer based where Fleetpool is both, it actually has a lot of corporate business. So I think in the next 2 to 5 years we will see that market grow and develop and we will follow it very closely and see how to best position ourselves in that space.

 

 

 

CarNext: «I think the way we see that is first of all we actually become a small shareholder in Constellation, and where we like the CarNext model is that they want to go retail, so they want to become a digital retail business in Europe, and we think they have a good chance to get there»

 

 

 

FLEET PEOPLE: The merger with LeasePlan implies a vision, that of ALD, resolutely committed to promoting the sustainability and efficiency of vehicle fleets, but always placing itself on the side of the driver’s needs. On the LeasePlan side, however, the bet in this regard has been, in the last two years, much more restrictive, indicating that they will only focus on electric mobility. What will be the spirit of ‘New ALD’ in terms of technologies?

TIM ALBERTSEN: We’ll all just have diesel cars! [laughs] That was a joke! No, you pinpointed it yourself; I mean we are pretty much doing what our customers want us to do. We are steering in that direction, and having said that, what you see is happening today – in Q4 we were just above 30 percent of new deliveries of electric vehicles either full electric or plug-in hybrids, which is actually our target for 2025 so it’s going much faster than we anticipated. And our customers clearly want us to help them to do their transformation of getting into electric vehicles. So I think where we are today is that we are following a customer request. I think that could go fast or slow, but it’s not just 5 years and then everything is electric – we don’t believe in that. I think we believe in the fact that for some years there will still be room for diesel cars, there will still be room for petrol cars and of course we will be making sure that there are products and services around electric vehicles. That is both interesting and also competitive in terms of total customer ownership and our interest is of course to push that as much as we can but without being detrimental to our customers’ needs; that’s not what we want to do. At the end of the day it’s probably going to be a longer transition than anybody would expect. But at the same time I think that ALD and the likes of ALD will be absolutely crucial in making this shift happen. Because our customers, whether corporates or individuals, are today a bit lost when it comes to electrification, and they need someone like us, professionals who hopefully know how to deal with electric vehicles not only going forward, but also providing all the services around charging and, you know charging in itself is a big challenge, so we will be quite instrumental I think in making this transformation happen, but it’s true that the objectives that have been set by LeasePlan and the objectives set by ALD are quite different, as you mentioned, and we probably have to figure out somewhere in between where we can land when we are together the 2 of us.

 

 

 

Tim Albertsen (ALD): «LeasePlan fits very well with the ALD spirit and culture»

New Mobility: «We work with BlaBlaCar today and we work with Bipi and if there are others like that we’re happy to work with these people if they bring new customers to us»

 

 

 

 

 

 

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