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O'Rourke creates UK's biggest tower crane fleet with purchase of Laing

The O’Rourke Group has taken ownership of industry stalwart Laing Construction plc. After almost a year of negotiation the sale was agreed for a symbolic £1.00.

The take-over allows Laing’s plant operation, EPL, to merge with O’Rourke’s Select Plant Hire, creating the largest tower crane fleet in the UK, with 160 towers and about 30 crawlers.

Mike Studd of Select Plant Hire told that all of Laing’s 1800 staff and 2500 operatives are to be retained. EPL and Select’s merger will form a force of about 500 workers. Those from EPL have expertise in a largely German fleet, whilst the workforce at Select specialise in Italian Comedil cranes, for which they are the UK and Ireland’s exclusive distributor.

At present, and for the forseeable future, operations will continue from the existing depots. It is hoped that, so far as customers are concerned, business operations will continue as normal.

Mr Studd believes that the excellent UK market will remain buoyant next year, and is optimistic for plenty of business for at least three years to come. Several large projects are under discussion and will be announced in due course.

The Laing acquisition accelerates O’Rourke’s growth plans by at least five years. The companies will be run as separate businesses, under the newly formed O’Rourke plc holding company. However, two O’Rourke directors will move into Laing – Barry Dye heading the London and South East region and Mike Robins leading the West and South West, as well as heading up the expansion of the Civil Engineering Division.

Laing’s construction division has seen losses of £82m in the first half of this year and watched share prices tumble by 50% in September. In three and a half years, it has lost a total of £180m, culminating in a loss of £34m on the Millennium Stadium project in Cardiff.

Sir Martin Laing will step down as chairman of Laing in January, leaving the company without a member of the founding family in control for the first time in it’s 152 years. He will remain as a non-executive director.

John Laing plc will now develop it’s asset-based business in house building and PFI infrastructure with the £73m it has raised though a rights issue underwritten by ING Baring.