SELF-STORAGE entrepreneur Alister Jack is on the hunt for further sites after snapping up 12 storage centres in a £20 million deal backed by Bank of America.
The Edinburgh-based businessman, who previously set-up and sold similar chains called Aardvark and Armadillo, said his latest venture – Alligator Self Storage – was now the UK's second-biggest independent self storage operator.
The dozen sites newly acquired from Australian investment bank Macquarie take Alligator's portfolio to 17.
Jack, who co-founded marquee hire company Field & Lawn more than 20 years ago, said he was eyeing further opportunities to expand the business.
"We have the ability to finance the acquisition of more sites," he said. "We would like to buy two or three more in the next year, though there's quite a bit to do in terms of integrating the latest sites."
The Macquarie-owned units had been operating under the Storage King name and will now be rebranded Alligator and run out of their new owner's head office in Edinburgh.
Backing for the acquisition came from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which already had involvement with the Macquarie estate. Jack, meanwhile, has put "substantial" equity into the expansion of Alligator, which has bases in Edinburgh and Dumfries as well as a string of sites south of the Border.
Edinburgh Self Storage, a sister company of Alligator, is located in the Jenners Depository building, which Jack bought in February 2006 following the sale of the department store to House of Fraser.
The businessman entered the self storage market 15 years ago. He built up Aardvark Self Storage before selling it for 30m in 2002 to a business now known as Safestore.
Just months later he set up Armadillo – subsequently sold to the property and infrastructure arm of HSBC for 40m in early 2007.
According to the UK-based Self Storage Association, the industry continues to grow steadily and for the past five years has recorded growth rates of between 8 and 15 per cent. The largest concentration of centres remains in London and the south-east of England.
Jack said the self storage market was seeing fill-up rates head back to 2006/07 levels after a "lull" caused by the property market slump.
He added: "People often ask me if the UK self storage market is near saturation and the answer is no.
"The industry in America offers six square feet of space per head of population and in the UK we haven't even achieved a quarter of that."