Sussex firm acquired by crane rental specialist

A powered access rental equipment specialist based in West Sussex has been snapped up by a private equity-backed counterpart. Yorkshire company AFI-Uplift offers machine rental and sales, as well as industry-accredited training and health and safety courses. It has snapped up Facelift (GB), which was founded in Hickstead in 1986 and operates a rental business and its complementary training arm.

Facelift reported revenues of GBP12m for 2018 and has a total rental fleet of more than 700 machines. The acquisition takes AFI’s UK rental fleet to 7,500 machines and will enable it to substantially add scale to its existing business. AFI plans to retain and develop the Facelift brand, with Paul Standing (Facelift managing director) set to join the AFI board following the acquisition. 

The group has also secured new long-term financing from Pricoa Private Capital, which will invest GBP60m through a combination of debt and equity. The deal provides and exit for Rutland Partners after six years. The transaction has been led by the current AFI management team – David McNicholas and chairman David Shipman – who have taken control of the group through a significant majority stake.

The overall deal size for the combined transactions totals about GBP160m. McNicholas, chief executive of AFI-Uplift, said: “We are really pleased to be adding the Facelift business and a strong team of experienced people to the group. It’s a complementary fit to our existing business, allowing us to consolidate our position in the truck-mounted access market and strengthen our self-propelled mobile elevating work platform business.

“We are excited to welcome Pricoa as our new financial backer, knowing that they share our vision for the potential to develop the business from here. We are hugely grateful for the support and advice from Rutland, which has allowed us to achieve a significant amount over the last six years.” Ed Jolly, managing director at Pricoa Private Capital, added: “We are delighted to have secured a relationship with the strong management team at AFI, a business we have followed for some time.

We share management’s view of the great opportunities that lie ahead and look forward to playing a part in the continued development of the Group in the UK and the Middle East.” Advisers on the deals included Deloitte (AFI shareholders), DSW Corporate Finance (AFI and Management) and SRC Corporate Finance (Facelift shareholders). The lender was PNC.

Legal advice was provided by Addleshaw Goddard (AFI), Freeths (AFI and Management), ASB Law (Facelift), Taylor Wessing (Rutland), Akin Gump (Pricoa) and Squire Patton Boggs (PNC). Due diligence was completed by KPMG (financial) and CIL (commercial). Rupert Rawcliffe, founder of SRC Corporate Finance, said: “The team and I at SRC CF are delighted to have assisted the shareholders of Facelift on its sale to AFI.

AFI will provide a good home for Facelift, allowing Gordon to retire, leaving the business in good hands.

It was a pleasure to work with everyone on the successful sale of this locally headquartered national business.”

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