AFI gets private equity owner and adds Hi-Reach

By Murray Pollok03 June 2013

One of the AFI machines hired by Cleveland Bridge UK.

One of the AFI machines hired by Cleveland Bridge UK.

Private equity company Rutland Partners has acquired a majority shareholding of AFI-Uplift, one of the largest aerial platform rental companies in the UK, and at the same time made add-on acquisitions of rental companies Hi-Reach in the UK and Access Rental Gulf in Dubai.

The deal will create a combined group with a fleet of 5500 machines, adding Hi-Reach’s 1500 units and Access Rental Gulf’s 400 strong fleet to AFI’s existing 3700 platforms in the UK. Hi-Reach had an annual turnover of £10 million and Access Rental Gulf was a £4 million business.

Hi-Reach’s managing director, Paul Richards, will work with AFI as a consultant going forward and AFI said it would retain the Hi-Reach brand.

The other acquired company, Access Rental Gulf, was formed in 2007 as a separate operation by AFI chairman David Shipman and AFI’s business development director Nick Selley. It operates in Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.

London-based Rutland Partners, which in recent years has also invested in Brandon Hire and the Pizza Hut restaurant chain, said the enterprise value of the three transactions was around £85 million.

Rutland is investing around £32 million for a majority holding of the combined business, with AFI’s management team collectively reinvesting £13 million in the enlarged business. A press statement said AFI's existing managers were "fully committed to working closely together" with Rutland in the years ahead.

In addition, AFI and Rutland have signed a deal with GE Capital for a £50 million, five year asset based lending facility.

Nick Selley said: “These developments have increased the AFI group’s annual turnover from around £30 million to almost £50 million and our fleet from 3700 machines to over 5500.

“Although AFI has acquired several companies during recent years, the Hi-Reach acquisition is by far our largest deal to date and it emphasises how we are well positioned to capitalise on opportunities as they develop in the market place.”

Mr Selley said that bringing Access Rental Gulf into the AFI group would bring benefits to both sides; “AFI has the infrastructure in place to support the continued growth of Access Rental Gulf. At the same time, whilst trading conditions in the UK remain challenging, Access Rental Gulf is experiencing strong demand in its main markets of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia.”

Oliver Jones, partner of Rutland, said; “This complex and simultaneous combination of three businesses, and their planned integration and development, is a prime example of a Rutland deal. We are excited about working with David and his team in the months and years ahead to help maximise the opportunities for the enlarged AFI group.”

David Shipman, AFI chairman, said Rutland had been the catalyst in making the deal happen; “and with their support we look forward to driving all of our UK and Middle East businesses further forward in the months and years ahead. We are all tremendously excited by the opportunities that an enlarged AFI group creates for all of our key stake holders.... customers, suppliers and, of course, most importantly, our loyal and hard working team.”

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