Watkins Hire completes MBO from Welco Group

By Murray Pollok14 January 2014

Watkins Hire, the UK renter of heaters and boilers, has completed a management buy-out from parent company Welco Group having secured £10 million in funding from Baird Capital Partners.

The MBO has been led by incoming chief executive officer Paul O’Kelly, who has experience of the rental sector from his period as European managing director of Harsco Infrastructure and also with portable accommodation renter Elliott Group.

Also part of the new Watkins board are Baird Capital managing directors Andrew Ferguson and James Benfield, along with Baird operating partner David Barrass, who is now Watkins chairman. Mr Barrass also has rental experience, having worked for Rentokil Initial when it owned aerial platform rental company Initial PTP and crane renter Initial GWS.

Watkins said the funding will support increased capital expenditure to grow the rental fleet and to enable further investment in the business’ engineering, operational and service functions.

Mr O’Kelly said he looked forward to growing the business “significantly” over the next few years; “With the financial backing from Baird Capital we will be able to invest further in the company's modern and efficient rental fleet in support of a key account driven growth plan.” He added that Baird’s “global operational experience will be valuable as we focus on driving growth.”

Watkins’ focus on rental began in 1998, supplying heaters, steam and water boilers, air handlers and chillers to a wide variety of clients. It has a dedicated events division, providing equipment at UK and international events, including the 2012 London Olympics.

Based in Lydney, Gloucestershire, the company has seven depots throughout the UK and also rents equipment in Europe.

Baird’s James Benfield said; “We are delighted to partner with the Watkins management team, and through our strong sector knowledge and resources to help the company build on its reputation as a trusted provider of quality temperature control services.”

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