Dedicated division

02 April 2008

In May 2007, Malthus – already a big JLG importer in Norway – bought Swedish access equipment dealer Liftbolaget giving an additional boost to the growth of its access business. “Malthus bought Liftbolaget because, although Norway is a healthy market it is not big enough for the sort of growth we require,” says Mårten Hatteburg.

Mr Hatteburg, a long term Malthus employee, was appointed managing director of Liftbolaget after the acquisition. “Norway and Sweden have very different cultures, it was essential that we integrate them, like wheels on a clock intermeshing together. This was the most important thing to do after buying Liftbologet, so now there is no difference in the culture.”

Baltic expansion

On 11 February, a new managing director, Andreas Berglund takes over at Liftbolaget freeing up Mr Hatteburg to take on a wider role covering all Malthus' aerial platform businesses, and with responsibility for identifying growth opportunities.

The first of these was the acquisition of Estonian company, Back Up Equipment, finalised on 1 January 2008 “It is a relatively small company selling and servicing aerial platforms: Omme, Danilift [the Danish truck mounted platform specialist], Bomag [the compaction equipment manufacturer] and Hinowa,”says Mr Hatteburg, “Malthus will take JLG to them.”

Access equipment is just one branch of Malthus' business – it also rents temporary accommodation, formwork and weather protection systems – selling machines from manufacturers including JLG, Omme, Hinowa, and Danilift, and is the exclusive agent in Scandinavia and the Baltic States for Pop Up Products, the UK mini-scissor producer. Liftbolaget's range includes some of the same products and some from different manufacturers. Mr Hatteburg says that there will probably be some rationalisation of the range in the future, but was not prepared to disclose which ranges might be dropped.

Mr Hatteburg came to work at Malthus from Lönne Scandanavia, Bergen, Norway, in 1998 at that time Malthus' access business was relatively small – worth €1 million, today it is worth about €44 million.

Growth potential

Malthus does not plan to enter the access rental business as it considers it to be a conflict with its rental customers. Mr Hatteburg believes there is still a lot of growth potential in selling to rental companies, however, he also sees new opportunities in selling to end users. “In 2008 Malthus will be employing five new sales people to concentrate on the end user market,” he says. “There are many more end users than rental companies so we need a dedicated team.”

The major frustration for Mr Hatteburg has been the difficulty in getting enough equipment to sell, “This has been going on for the last two to three years,” he says. “We are suffering from a backlog of orders and can wait over a year for delivery.” He expects the problem to continue through 2008-2009. “Two to three years ago delivery was four to five weeks in Scandinavia and the Baltics and these markets are not used to planning equipment purchase so far ahead.” Mr Hatteburg doesn't believe his markets are being singled out, but thinks that it's probably the same all over, “perhaps US home markets don't wait quite so long,” he admits.

Despite problems with supply, Mr Hatteburg is excited by moving into new markets and developing the business, “As Malthus grows bigger it becomes more interesting to suppliers, customers and potential employees. I enjoy developing the business and having satisfied customers,” he says.

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