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HSS acquires UK Platforms

Haulotte has sold its UK rental business - UK Platforms - to general rental company HSS.

UK Platforms employs around 120 people and operates more than 2,400 Haulotte aerial work platforms and telehandlers, through a network of 10 branches. The business had revenues of € 20 million in 2012 and is the seventh largest aerial lift rental company in the UK in terms of fleet size.

HSS was the third largest access rental company according to the Cranes & Access Top 30 rental companies with 4,300 platforms, although most of them are smaller and low level units. This deal will make it the number two behind Nationwide Platforms.

The company says that this is part of a programme to introduce specialist divisions, similar to the Abird generator acquisition earlier this year, and that it intends to retain all of the staff, management and infrastructure of UK Platforms and operate it as separate specialist operation.

Haulotte chief executive Alexandre Saubot said: “This transaction will have a positive impact on our 2013 first half accounts, will significantly reduce our debt and strengthen our financial capacity to pursue strategic opportunities in our core business when they will appear. This deal should enable us to further strengthen the close relationship we have with the HSS Group for several years”

Chris Davies, chief executive of HSS Hire added: “We believe that UK Platforms is a great fit for HSS and reflects our commitment to adding specialist expertise to our group. I’m confident that it will help us to continue to deliver an unrivalled hire experience to our customers. There is great cultural alignment - we each care strongly about safety, high-quality kit, great value and industry-leading customer service. We look forward to a continuing strategic partnership with Haulotte.”

UK Platforms’ managing director Philip James said: “UKP is a specialist in its field, distinguished by an excellent range and service commitment. We look forward to becoming part of the HSS Group and the future service enhancements this will bring to customers and colleagues of both organisations.”

Vertikal Comment

The sale of UK Platforms has been rumoured for some time, in fact over many years, but this move was something of a surprise.

It is a complete ‘game changer’ for HSS in that it has in the past focused all of its efforts on access equipment that it can deliver on the back of a 3.5 tonne truck or a plant trailer. With rental rates for the fleet it is acquiring still very keen, it is usually more profitable to form a partnership with one of the major access rental companies and re-rent from them.

However since coming under new ownership last October, HSS has started to invest in specialist divisions, becoming a little more like A-Plant in the UK or United Rentals in the USA. This may also reflect a shift in the access rental market away from the specialists towards the general equipment rental companies, following a similar trend in the USA? In which case HSS is ahead of the game, if not it could come to regret this move.

The sale makes very good sense for Haulotte though, which will no longer be handicapped by being seen as a competitor to its main customers, and one assumes that it is acquiring what will be the UK’s second largest aerial lift rental company as a customer. It will also give its financial position a boost at a time when it is struggling a little. It now needs to exploit this change as aggressively as it can. Sadly it would have benefited enormously if it had been able to make this announcement a week ago – prior to Vertikal Days - its stand would then have been the major focus of interest from rental company visitors.

In summary this transaction probably makes more sense for Haulotte than HSS, but how each of them gains from it is now down to how well they exploit the ‘knock on’ opportunities that the deal presents them with. History tells us that only a few companies in this situation ever succeed in exploiting them to the full.

Interesting times