Continental divide

24 April 2008

There is a convenient way of summing up this year's Access-50 listing: the six fastest growing access rental companies are European; the six largest are North American.

These two facts illustrate the differing environments for rental companies in the two regions. Europeans are still at the stage of acquiring companies or growing organically - particularly companies in the UK and Spain, who provide the five fastest growers - while the North Americans make do with mainly organic growth on top of already well-developed fleets and branch networks. The top five US firms saw average fleet growth of around 8% compared to 17.5% for the top 50 as a whole.

The only significant access acquisition in the US last year was H&E Equipment's addition of California-based Eagle High Reach (which we estimate added around 2000 machines). This lifted H&E into fourth position, at the expense of NES Rentals.

This year's list also illustrates the degree to which rental companies have been expanding their fleets. The top 50 fleet now stands at almost 330000 machines, a 17.5% rise compared to last year. We have added seven Japanese companies this year (see below), which gives the fleet an artificial boost. Strip out this ‘Japan effect' and the overall fleet rise is still a very respectable 12%.

The Access-50 top place is again held by United Rentals with a fleet of 71093 access platforms, which represents a fifth of the total top 50 fleet. It is still almost two-and-a-half times bigger than its nearest rival, RSC Equipment Rental. The largest non-US company is Lavendon in seventh position, followed by Loxam at number 10.

There is one notable feature in this year's survey: the inclusion of seven companies from Japan. We have featured major players like Nikken and Nishio in the past, but this year we received reliable estimated fleet data - although not from the companies themselves - that has enabled us to include seven companies, with Nishio Rent All, Sumisho Rental Support (Bluetec), Aktio Corp and Nikken all with 3000 machines or more. Four other Japanese companies have estimated fleets of between 2000 and 2500.

The inclusion of the Japanese companies also makes it more difficult to get into the list, with a minimum fleet of 1615 units now required (it was 1050 last year).

Near misses this year include Gunco (no longer part of Cramo), Milcon, Gerken, Prangl and Wizard Workspace. Other firms that are fast growing - and may well feature next year - include the UK's Access Rentals, which currently has a fleet of 1100 machines that will rise to around 1500-1700 by September, and Rama Elevacion in Spain, which in just three years has become a 1000 unit company.

There are still no companies in the list from Asia Pacific (except Japan and Australia) or Latin America. However, that could change, with several possible future Access-50 companies in Asia (see box stories).

For the time being, access rental remains a business dominated by European and North America companies, who together own 90% of the top 50 fleet. If there is still a division between the two continents in terms of development, the divide with most of the rest of the world is deeper still.

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