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HSS grows following intensive restructure

PLANT - Tool hirer now looking for acquisitions within specialist and general hire sectors

TOOL hire giant HSS said its decision to amalgamate its specialist depots into a series of 'one-stop shops' has raised productivity and fuelled growth. The hirer is now looking for acquisitions to bolt onto its network, either specialist or general hirers.

Chief executive Paul Nolan said that, while there had been speculation about the sale of the company, a number of options remained on the table. Speedy is one to have had initial talks with 3i, but is believed to have passed on the opportunity.

He said: 'When you have a venture capitalist on board, you are effectively up for sale from day one. But all options remain, from a trade sale, to a secondary buy out with refinancing, to a flotation on something like Aim.

'I am enjoying working with the company and I would like to go on working with it, either as an employee or as part of the ownership team.' Mr Nolan said the programme of depot closures, replacements and opening of 45 Premier Centres had led to 'double-digit growth' in like-for-like store business.

He added: 'We reckon we have outstripped the industry by 10 per cent and we have proved that productivity gains can be made by centralising tools. We had one northern city where we closed three specialist depots which between them turned over £80,000, yet the new Premier Centre is turning over £120,000.'

Speaking as HSS launched its 2006 hire catalogue, Mr Nolan said the hirer was on course to hit £160 million turnover this year, from a total of 290 main outlets and 200 agency stores.

The restructuring programme has seen 100 branches closed, but Mr Nolan said that staff had been redeployed to the bigger stores.

The firm is still looking to expand into larger equipment, Mr Nolan confirmed.

He said: 'More and more customers require heavier equipment and the concept of hiring plant is not a problem for us.

'I have already looked at a couple of plant hirers and specialist hirers. I am looking for a specialist niche we can move into.'