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Universal reborn

Universal is back in business today, starting with 10 of the staff at the Basildon facility.

The business has been resurrected by Facelift, the Hickstead based access specialist. Facelift purchased the non encumbered assets of Universal in November, including the telephone numbers and around 300 aerial lifts including almost 30 truck mounts.

Facelift has now agreed to rent the Basildon facility which we understand is still owned by John Ambrose. The operation will effectively be Facelift trading as Universal aerial platforms.

Steve Mann who previously ran the business with the title of chairman, is returning to run the Universal business in London as a stand alone operation within Facelift.

Mann has been with Universal since it was purchased by John Ambrose from Trafalgar House/Agent Plant following the failure of its owner, Richards & Wallington, the crane hire group.

Facelift will retain its Rainham depot, roughly 20 miles from the Basildon location and allow the two businesses to run independently of each other.

In addition to the London operation Facelift has managed to secure the lease on Universal's Birmingham depot and will be creating a new Facelift depot there. Until now Facelift has had a gap between London and Liverpool, this now location will fill that void.

A large number of the Universal lifts are destined to be sold off due to their age. AJ Access has been working with Facelift to sell them, largely for export.

Facelift's intention is to stock the two new locations with some of the existing Universal fleet plus a number of new machines that the company has ordered.

Steve Mann spoke with Vertikal.Net this morning confirming that as of this morning the Universal Basildon operation was up and running again. He said that the aim was to rebuild the business, retaining as many of the previous team as possible, along with its customer base, a good number who have been with the company since the begining.

Mann would not comment on how many units the operation was starting up with, but did say that until recently the operation ran 350 units from Basildon and that it was perfectly reasonable to look at that as a realistic target.

In the meantime it will depend on on going demand, using the Facelift fleet to supplement the Universal fleet and then add units as demand dictates.

Vertikal Comment

The Universal administration has not progressed in a traditional manner, and who knows how it might have turned out if things had been done differently?

Still at the end of the day KPMG will have raised a fair amount of money for the creditors and it now looks as though the name will continue with some jobs saved.

For its competitors, they can take heart from the fact that a large portion of the fleet has been exported, thanks to Lavendon and now Facelift/AJ Access. There is also, in essence, one less competitor on the scene.

Finally the finance company's who had machines with Universal have managed to sell them off, at prices which should have recouped most of their exposure.

We understand that one of the last parcels of lifts, around 25 owned by Barlcays, have been sold or contracted to PASS the East Midlands based company managed by David Cadman.


It comes as no surprise to me but it looks like Steve left Facelift and has started again as Paramount Access. Facelift's loss!

Oct 25, 2010