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Cox back in business

PLANT Managers admit 'a number of mistakes were made' as they take back reins of hirer from administrator

COX HIRE Centres has promised to 'get back to core business'after the firm was bought out of administration.

Keith Price, the firm's managing director, who was also managing director of Cox Plant, as the company was known before it went under, said there were lessons to be learned from its fall.

At one point Cox had 31 depots; it now has eight.Mr Price said: 'We expanded too quickly.We were too aggressive and we made a number of mistakes, but we are now looking to move on.

'We will be operating partly in Scotland but the majority of the business will be in the south-east, which accounted for around 40 per cent of Cox's turnover previously.'

The business will operate a core fleet of 600 general plant and tool items, ranging from compressors to telehandlers. It will have a workforce of 72.Two satellite operations offering hoists and cranes will continue to run.

The bulk of the funds for the new business will come from two sleeping partners.Mr Price and, David Symon, who was also on the original management team that bought out the firm in 2002, will run Cox but will not own equity.

Paul Bamford, the third member of the triumvirate that paid £9 million to buy Cox from Andrews Sykes, is not involved in the new operation.

Mr Price said: 'Our intention is to build the business back up but we will not be expanding in a hurry.We will consolidate for the next 24 months and then take it from there.'

The news that the new Cox will be run by the same team that saw it fall into administration was greeted with dismay in some quarters.

The administrators at Ernst & Young, which completed the sale for an undisclosed sum, would not comment on the circumstances nor on how many other bids had been received.

It is not clear how much the creditors will have received, if anything, but Mr Price said a consideration had been paid to the administrators.

One insider commented: 'The creditors cannot be happy that this has been allowed to happen.They appear to have simply walked away from their debt responsibilities.'

Another source added: 'In fairness to the administrators, this may have been a preferable option to simply winding it down, but that will be of no comfort to the creditors.'

Mr Price said: 'I can understand the reaction, but to some extent the past is the past.'

He added: 'We have learned lessons and, if we were not committed to this business, we would not have got involved with it again.'