In our fleet: Ainscough

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Ainscough was acquired by its management, backed by Bank of Scotland, in 2007. This year new investors acquired BoS’s stake. Gareth Jones, commercial director, explains the deal and Ainscough’s plans.

In 2007, at the peak of the market, Ainscough was acquired by its management and investors for £255m. Whilst the business remained buoyant in terms of turnover and profit, when you buy at the top of the market, it’s a big gap to make up.

At the end of 2012, a partnership between Goldman Sachs and Texas Pacific Group came in and acquired Ainscough. We’ve re-secured our funding lines with £105m of asset based lending, and removed a lot of historic debt. The balance sheet is now clean, and we have capital in place to invest moving forwards.

Our core objectives, set in a three-year plan in 2012, are to increase our share in the general crane market; become more prominent in 500t plus heavy lift; and to be a turnkey solutions provider in renewables through our strategic division Ainscough Wind Energy Services.

Up to 200t, it’s about being a more prominent regional player: leveraging infrastructure, getting more customers on board and more aligned with the geographic spread of the network.

Part of the plan for heavy cranes is to invest. We’ve just taken delivery of a 500-tonner from Liebherr, we’ve another and two LTM 1750s on the way. We’ve completely refurbished our 1997 1,000t LTM1800D, taking it off the road for five months and overhauling it. We’ve nine 500- tonners, a TC 2800 lattice boom mobile, two CC 2800 crawlers, a CC 2500, two LR 1300s, and an LG 1550. We’ve 18 heavy cranes now.

On heavy cranes, we’ve been getting utilisations of around 93%- 100%. We try to keep travelling to a minimum. With nine 500ts, we try to generally get them into proximity of the next job. We’ve got one of the largest heavy haulage fleets in the UK, with 54 tractor units and 87 trailers, as well 212 vans. That’s critical to making us effective as we have been. It is also a big plus point in terms of safety and duty of care.

The business continues to invest in a continuous improvement plan of the existing fleet refurbishing the 25t, 50t and 100t cranes. The 100t is very popular; the 25t is a quickly disappearing beast. The average age is still low, so our new investment this year has been in heavies.

We’re seeing 50% less cranes in the UK mobile market. We think there’s around 1,900 mobiles in the UK now. Whilst crane numbers have decreased, demands on health, safety and compliance have increased, making getting on to some sites extremely demanding. We choose to invest, to make sure our assets (people and products) comply with customer requirements.

Our part acquisition of Windcon last year creating AWES was a strategic move that recognised the demand for turnkey solutions in the renewable market. We anticipate a lot of growth over the course of the coming years and their sector excellence linked to our crane experience is a winning formula.

Special projects is another area that we are currently investigating. We have delivered some good wins where our engineering excellence and approach has seen us deliver benefits in 2013 and linked to our strategic alliance with ALE, the UKs leading heavy lift and transport provider, we are excited that there will be good things to come.

Gareth Jones, Commercial Director,
Ainscough Crane Hire

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