Haulotte buys US manufacturer Bil-Jax

By Murray Pollok25 July 2008

Alexandre Saubot, Haulotte's chief operating officer.

Alexandre Saubot, Haulotte's chief operating officer.

Haulotte Group's US subsidiary has acquired US aerial platform and scaffold manufacturer Bil-Jax for an undisclosed price. The acquisition will give Haulotte's business in the US a major boost, giving it a well-known domestic brand name, local manufacturing, and a well-established distribution network.

At the same time the company said its sales in the first half of the year had fallen 12%, largely because of a 23% decline in western Europe compared to the same period in 2007. The company said it had started a cost reduction programme targeting a 10% reduction in fixed costs in the second half of the year.

Bil-Jax had revenues of US$80 million in 2007, making it the fifteenth largest aerial platform manufacturer in the world and the fifth largest in North America. The company employs 300 people and 90% of its sales are in North America.

"This acquisition will assist us in further developing our business," said Alexandre Saubot, Haulotte Group's chief operating officer. "This will allow us to strengthen our worldwide position, increase our product offerings, and establish a manufacturing presence in North America."

Jeff Ott, chief executive officer of Bil-Jax, said it was a natural next step for the company; "We believe this alliance with Haulotte Group will deliver superior value, better choices, and more innovation to our customers and industry partners. Additionally, it will increase products offerings and create a position outside of the US."

The companies said they were developing a comprehensive integration plan. Haulotte said it anticipated that the integration will be completed by the end of year 2008.

Haulotte said synergies would be focused on four main areas: economies of scale driven by Haulotte's strong market position and Bil-Jax's 60 years as one of North America's leaders in scaffolding and niche aerial work platforms; integration of engineering staff and resources to accelerate product development; streamlining operations through increased purchasing power and elimination of duplicated costs; and the provision of "a complete access solution for customers in product and support areas."

The deal is extremely significant for Haulotte. The company has been trying to break the North American aerials market for many years, but without making serious inroads into the sales of major domestic manufacturers JLG, Genie, Skyjack and Snorkel. The acquisition of Bil-Jax gives it a major North American brand, manufacturing facilities, and an established distribution network.

Bil-Jax will also expand Haulotte's product range into niche self-propelled platforms, scaffolding and trailer mounted platforms. The acquisition will raise questions about Haulotte's existing distribution deal with Dinolift covering trailer mounts.

Meanwhile, Haulotte reported a 12% fall in sales to €258.7 million for the first half of the year to 30 June. The company said that "Strong gains in emerging countries (+22%) and Services (+27%) were not sufficient to offset the decline in sales in Western Europe (-23%), reflecting a slowdown in the aerial work platform market more pronounced than anticipated at the start of the year."

Haulotte said uncertainty in the market meant that it could not forecast its sales for the full year. The company has initiated a cost-reduction programme to cut costs by 10%. Haulotte said; "This plan does not concern efforts to prepare for our future expansion, such as R&D or measures to increase production capacity in Romania to reinforce our ability to service the growth countries of Eastern Europe. This new manufacturing unit that represents an investment of €23 million will be operational in the 2009 first half."

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