Phoenix snaps up Aberdeen oil industry rental group

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A LEADING private equity group yesterday unveiled its third Scottish acquisition in two years and predicted there was plenty of scope for further deals north of the Border.

Phoenix Equity Partners revealed it was paying 95.6 million to buy out Aberdeen-based Ashtead Technology Rentals from the publicly quoted Ashtead Group.

ATR is a leading provider of rental equipment to the offshore oil and gas sector and the environmental monitoring and testing industry.

The latest move follows two other deals in Scotland. Phoenix bought Dalkeith-based Letts Filofax for 50m in 2006.

In the same year it paid 124m for Aberdeen-based ASCO, a provider of supply chain and waste management services to the North Sea oil and gas industry.

ATR employs 22 people at its Aberdeen head office, and 140 in total worldwide, including an office in Houston.

Chris Hanna, a partner at Phoenix, confirmed the deal was being done via a management buyout.

He said: "We are delighted to have the opportunity to acquire ATR, a clear leader in its markets with a strong customer base and a number of exciting opportunities for growth.

"The management team have done an outstanding job in building a truly impressive business and we are delighted to have the opportunity to work in partnership with them."

Andy Doggett, ATR's managing director, said the deal gave a good platform to deliver the next phase of growth.

Doggett said Phoenix had "a proven pedigree in growing, supporting and developing UK headquartered businesses with ambitious international growth plans".

The latest acquisition means that Phoenix now employs about 1,000 people in Scotland.

Hugh Lennon, chairman of Phoenix's investment committee, said he saw the main scope for future Scottish acquisitions in continuing oil and gas opportunities out of Aberdeen, and financial services companies in Edinburgh.

Deals like the acquisition of Letts Filofax-type were "somewhere in-between".

Lennon added: "We don't see a torrent but a steady trickle of slightly smaller investments out of Scotland.

"Most of the action is currently in Aberdeen, that's where all the corporate financiers are. You can't pick up a paper without seeing the oil price is on the increase.

"Edinburgh obviously gives opportunities in financial services. And despite the credit crunch we are able to raise debt to support our equity. It is not buoyant but deals (in Scotland] can still be done."