Algeco Scotsman steers course through recession

By Murray Pollok11 September 2009

Global portable accommodation renter Algeco Scotsman said its multinationalfootprint was allowing it to weather the economic downturn better than its rivals although acknowledged that business conditions remained very difficult in markets including the UK, Spain and the US.

Gerry Holthaus, chief executive officer of Algeco Scotsman - which operates the Williams Scotsman business in North America and Algeco in Europe - told IRN that the company had the ability to switch fleet to areas where there was greater demand.

"We've probably moved 10000 units of our 330000 unit fleet. That's only 3%, but it's still a lot of assets", he said. Many of these units had been shifted from the US to Mexico, and in Europe from France to Italy, and from France and Germany to countries in eastern Europe such as Poland and the Czech Republic.

Mr Holthaus said the company had seen overall fleet utilization drop by five percentage points and that price competition was becoming fierce in some markets, particularly the UK, where it owns the Elliott Hire business.

"Competition in the UK has been very challenging", he told IRN, "We're trying to do our best to compete - it's more price sensitive than I would like, and that has put a lot of pressure on rates, much more so than anywhere else."

He said Algeco Scotsman was committed to staying in the UK market, which represents around 10% of Algeco's European turnover; "We are trying to maintain price discipline - we believe that's the right long term strategy", he said, "You have to have the courage to stay the course, even when you find prices that are surprising."

Read a full report on the portable accommodation market - and the full interview with Mr Holthaus - in the October issue of IRN.

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