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Sixt CEO hints at car-sharing merger talks between BMW and Daimler

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German carmakers Daimler (DAIGn.DE) and BMW (BMWG.DE) may be in talks to combine their car-sharing services Car2Go and DriveNow, the chief executive of car rental company and DriveNow partner Sixt (SIXG.DE) hinted on Thursday.

Daimler and BMW have discussed pooling their car-sharing businesses to better compete against ride-hailing companies like Uber [UBER.UL] and Lyft which have started offering pay-per-use mobility services which are more convenient than car ownership.

Asked whether Sixt was involved in merger talks with Daimler and BMW, Chief Executive Erich Sixt said: "At the last press conference I made clear that we are not involved. Today I can only say 'no comment'. This is of course a slightly different statement from the last one. Why things are dragging on is not down to us."

In May Sixt had said it was not involved in any merger talks, but added that its 50 percent DriveNow stake had been valued at around 480 million euros ($560 million).

Car2Go declined to comment. No one at DriveNow was immediately available for comment.

On being asked whether BMW was in talks to combine its car- sharing business with Daimler's, a spokeswoman for BMW said, "We are in constant talks with our partners and are of course evaluating the strategic options for our activities and stakes."

Demand for car-sharing services has taken off in a number of major cities including London, Frankfurt, Berlin, Milan and Helsinki, where customers can use free parking, a major cost and convenience factor.

More than a third of clients who tried BMW's DriveNow car-sharing business in London sold their own car and only 20 percent were determined to keep their privately owned vehicles.

BMW and Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler are now working on developing autonomous cars, vehicles which could enable them to upend the market for taxi and ride-hailing services.

The market for ride-hailing services currently makes up around 33 percent of the global taxi market, and could grow eightfold to $285 billion by 2030, once autonomous robotaxis are in operation, Goldman Sachs said.

Sixt said its DriveNow business had grown its customer base from 815,000 people at the end of 2016, to 950,000 at the end of June. As of August 2017, Car2Go had 2.7 million members, who have access to 13,900 vehicles in eight countries in North America and Western Europe and in China.

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