European rental companies are “more aggressive than ever in trying to offer new products and new services”, according to Vesa Koivula, president of the European Rental Association (ERA).

In the ERA’s 2014 Annual Report, Mr Koivula said 2014 had been expected to be a year of recovery for the rental industry, and the first part of the year had been encouraging.

“Nonetheless, amid a global economic environment more difficult than foreseen and feeling the impact of the Ukrainian crisis, many countries are revising downward their expectations for this year and probably next year, with UK and Germany being the two most confident and optimistic markets in Europe at the moment," Mr Koivula said.

“These results are supported by the findings of the ERA/ IRN quarterly rental trackers and the research in the preparation of the European Equipment Rental Industry 2014 Report,” he added.

In this context, Mr Koivula said European rental companies were also optimising their performance by improving processes.

The report said most companies have been waiting for a genuine recovery, focussing on efficiency rather than on expansion.

Key trends

It said current trends developed and pursued by the industry included a focus on outsourcing agreements – the report cited examples of this including Zeppelin Rentals’ acquisition of a large part of contractor Hochtief’s Streif Baulogistik’s rental business; and Speedy Hire’s contract with the UK National Grid to provide rental equipment.

Meanwhile, online rental development continues apace with key developments in 2014 including Erento expanding in Europe and US-based BigRentz.com expanding to cover around 5000 rental locations.

Joint ventures in emerging markets or large construction projects were also highlighted as a key trend, with examples including Cramo and Ramirent forming a joint-venture for Russian and Ukrainian operations; and Ramirent and Zeppelin Rentals forming a joint venture to combine resources and expertise in a bid to support construction of the world’s longest immersed tunnel – the Fehmarnbelt project.

New Services

Another key recent trend has seen rental companies develop new services. The ERA Annual Report highlighted examples including HSS Hire acquiring TecServ, a UK-based servicing contract cleaning equipment company in the UK; as well as Finnish rental company Cramo, which created a new sub-brand, Cramo Adapteo, for its portable accommodation rental business to help it penetrate non-construction markets.

The report also pointed to Hewden’s “core products” delivery guarantee; as well as Ramirent signing an agreement with NSS Group to acquire its weather shelter and scaffolding division Dry Construction Concept; Zeppelin Group acquiring Blohm + Voss Inspection Service; A-Plant launching “express stores”; and Loxam expanding its city centre rental project.

The ERA Annual Report came after the association released updated forecasts for this year and next in its European Equipment Rental Industry 2014 Report, which forecast that the European Rental market would increase 2.6% in 2015 to €23.9 billion at constant exchange rates.

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