Top UK parking operators

Copyright: David Lawson

Published: Property Week 2007

What is the UK parking sector worth? No-one seems to know how big it is, let alone hazard a value, which seems strange when it has moved to the centre of regeneration policies and is fast becoming a focus of alternative investment.  Even the British Parking Association fudges the issue, blaming the huge variety of lorry parks, coach parks, multi-storeys, basements and on-street parks - many hidden away in private hands. ‘The cost of commissioning a study to get an accurate figure would exceed the benefits,’ it says.

   A best guess by industry experts is that the UK has more than 23,000 ‘parking facilities’ – which leaves open the total number of vehicle spaces. One indication of the total value is that deals are being done at around £1,000 for each space in high-value multi-storey parks [MSCPs]. Leading players divide into two types, according to consultant Town Centre Parking. About half a dozen are big enough to take leases of 25-35 years and often co-fund major schemes for developers, hospitals and local authorities. A similar number concentrate on management contracts, sometimes as short as a few years on sites as small as a few spaces.


  NCP is a familiar giant managing more than 200,000 spaces in over 700 locations. But behind the iconic yellow and black signs, big changes have taken place, with takeovers by Cendant, then Cinven, then 3i, culminating in Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund paying almost £800m in June this year.  By then, however, the property had been stripped out. NCP leases more than 130 parks from an international group of investors headed by Delek Global Real Estate which bought the bricks, mortar and concrete for around £600m in 2003.

   A deal before the latest takeover shows how management has become a key service to investors. RBS bought five town centre car parks from Croydon Borough Council. These were leased to NCP, which committed to spending £2m on refurbishment, sharing income with the local authority.


 As part of transport conglomerate Go Ahead Group since 2002, it is logical that a large proportion of the operator’s 65,000 spaces are around rail stations and airports, often under brands such as Pink Parking.   An idea of value comes from the £240m earned in the year to June by Meteor’s aviation division, which includes parking services. Parking revenue dropped more than 20% but this was due to changes in contracts with airport operators from concessions to a management fee rather than any fall in demand.

  Meteor uses a range of leases, management and concessions with property groups, hotels, transport bodies, hospitals and shopping centres. It is also a big player in PFI and PPP contracts with public bodies, arranging funding for redevelopment and refurbishment and sharing income.


 This is a private company with the financial clout to be among the elite which can handle virtual ownership via long leases. Last December it won the 700-space MSCP in Jamaica Street , Glasgow, from Kimberley Developments at more than £1,000 per space. La Salle Investment subsequently bought the scheme at a yield of around 5.75%.

 Other deals include a 25-year lease on 1,000 spaces at Bradford Leisure Park and a 15-year lease at £50,000 a year signed in 2004 on 48 spaces at Edinburgh Quay’s Fountainbridge mixed use development.   Latest accounts show post-tax profits of more than £720,000 in 2004, when GVA Grimley valued some of its car parks at £2,350,000 - more than twice the historic cost.


Euro Car Parks is a fiercely entrepreneurial outfit run by solicitor Barry Tucker with more than 500 sites across the UK managed by over 1,000 staff.  Services span on and off street parking, local and public authorities, shopping centres, hospitals, airports and railway stations. It has embraced institutional leasing of multi-storey car parks as well as in-house operation of directly leased sites.  ECP was a suitor when NCP was in play, as Tucker saw scope for rationalisation, unlocking a wave of redevelopment. It is a view that will not have died, perhaps making other operators a target for takeover. 


  The family-run company has laid out ambitions to become a top national player by changing its name from Regional Car Parks. RCP has won a string of awards as one of the fastest growing inner city businesses after growing from a single car park in Norwich to more than 50 sites in 12 years.   Director Shapoor Naghshineh aims to double turnover to £12m this year and is bidding for a clutch of contracts across the UK.  RCP spreads its net across leases, management and ownership, ranging from a 1,000-space car park at the St Marks Shopping Centre, Lincoln, taken over from another operator last year, to a single space at Empire House, an office building in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.


Excel Parking Services is another familiar top manager, growing over more than a decade to compete for contracts with NHS trusts, airports, universities, museums, park and ride schemes, supermarkets and shopping centres.