POWERED access giant Lavendon has continued on its crusade to build a national network of regional hire companies after snapping up AMP Access.
The purchase of the Taunton-based firm is the latest step in Lavendon's bid to target small and medium-sized contractors with strong local operations, coming just weeks after the purchase of regional hirers Kestrel and Panther Platforms.
According to Lavendon chief executive Kevin Appleton, the ideal would be to build a 10-15 branch network that can serve the regional customer base, mirroring sister company Nationwide's network for the major contractors and large projects.
He said: 'With Nationwide, we have to be fairly rigid in our discipline and to price consistently, which doesn't leave much room for the ducking and diving required in the local markets to meet the needs of small and medium-sized contractors.'
The concept of a network of regional brands is proving so successful that Lavendon is likely to look to repeat the model in its markets abroad at some point, Mr Appleton added.
The AMP deal could be worth anything up to £8.4 million, depending on performance over the next two years, since Lavendon has also taken on AMP's £2.8 million net debt.
AMP has a fleet of 525 platforms in four depots across the south-west and employs 57 people. The firm made pre-tax prof it of £600,000 on turnover of £4.9 million in the year to May 31 2006. The management team, led by chairman Mike Boyle and managing director Andy Pearson, will stay with the business.
Lavendon now has three southern and Midlands-based hirers and will look to add capacity north of Birmingham.
Mr Appleton said: 'We may not do it by acquisition but clearly there is room in the northern part of the country to serve smaller contractors.'
He added that, on the evidence so far, customers had not turned away from the regional hirers now they were owned by Lavendon, since the brands were kept in place.
He said: 'We have no evidence of customer attrition so far and so we won't be looking to change the offering from AMP.'
The addition of more regional hirers will also enable the group to offer more niche-oriented equipment, particularly electrical platforms aimed at the repair and maintenance sectors.
Mr Appleton said: 'There are a number of items of equipment which offer high margins but don't see enough application to be included in the standard national fleet, yet they will work as par t of a regional f leet.'
Mr Boyle said: 'We are seeing everincreasing demand from a wider range of customers. With the access to such a vast range of equipment that this deal brings, we will be able to expand our services still further.'
andrew. gaved@emap. com