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A-Plant plans a boom

PLANT AT SED - National hirer aims for growth through acquisition as well as expansion of specialist operations

A-PLANT is seeking acquisitions and to expand its specialist operations as it plans to double its market share in the next three years, according to chief executive Sat Dhaiwal.

The national hirer has restructured its top management as it aims for a 15 per cent share of the market.

Paul Fereday, formerly managing director of the specialist products business, becomes head of the general plant and tool hire operation, while Steve Shaughnessy becomes managing director at Specialist Products.

Mr Dhaiwal said that, while he wished to buy up businesses, he believed the price of some recent acquisitions was too high.

He said: 'The bar seems to have been raised for prices recently and we are saying 'Do we want to pay that?' We may have to look at organic growth if the climate continues.

'We are looking to bolt onto our existing specialist operations but in general plant we need more volume to go through if we are to build market share.

Our capex in 2002 was £24 million, whereas this year it will be £80 million at least. This will mean building the range, such as where we have gone up to 8-tonne excavators, where we only had 5-tonners before.' One of Mr Fereday's main tasks will be to expand the tool hire operation, which currently has 120 outlets.

Mr Dhaiwal said: 'There are lots of opportunities. For instance we have five depots in London and we could probably have 15. We now have the momentum where we can absorb such expansion. Health and safety responsibilities are going to squeeze the smaller hirers, even at a depot level. Companies now need to have all sorts of paperwork such as full service records for all the f leet.' A-Plant's onsite hire compounds are also to be expanded, following the success of its two sites at the Mansfield and Barts hospital schemes.

He said: 'It allows us to sell to the subbies as well as the main contractor.

But it benefits everyone, because our fitters can check all the equipment before the job starts and it can all be returned to the compound overnight if they want it to be secure.'