Materials Handling Online -- MARCH 02, 2001
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SYDNEY, Australia -- If everything goes to plan, by 2002 Brambles Industries' only association with forklifts and equipment hire will be a part-share in a merged UK company.

Brambles hopes to exit all its equipment rental activities by the end of 2001.

Brambles and GKN plc, headquartered in the UK, are in talks to merge their industrial services activities, which are currently run 50-50 in the UK. The merged entity has been estimated at A$17 billion.

The deal will include GKN's materials handling business, Interlake Material Handling, which specialises in pallet and container racking, storage and conveyor systems. Brambles' part ownership of the new company would be its only materials handling operation.

Brambles plans to sell its Gardemann equipment rental business in Germany by June. Chief executive John Fletcher would not name the potential purchaser, but said the business had "suffered from an extremely competitive market".

Last December Brambles sold its French forklift operation. Last November, Nacco Materials Handling Group bought Brambles' 5000-unit forklift fleet in Australia. While Brambles has not flagged a sale of its US forklift business, the company said in its half-yearly report, issued on February 22, that "equipment rental activities continued to suffer from structural changes in the market, with profits falling significantly". understands United Rentals Inc, the USA's largest equipment rentals company, may be looking to purchase the Brambles US operation.

United Rentals has just ended talks to acquire Neff Corporation, another US rentals company (see accompanying news item). The proposed deal would have been worth US$314 million. United Rentals decided not to further extend an informal proposal to Neff after its February 26 acceptance deadline.

Neither Brambles nor United Rentals would comment.

Mr Fletcher blamed equipment rentals for Brambles' poor half-year results, saying "long-term structural change in the global equipment rental sector" had led the company to an A$194 million pre-tax write-down in the value of its equipment rental businesses. "Divestment options are being explored," he said.

The half-year to December 31 showed only a A$1.5 million increase over 1999 in after-tax profit to A$181.9 million.

Brambles and GKN have released identical statements announcing discussions on the proposed "nil premium merger" of their industrial services activities, including Chep pallet and Cleanaway waste management businesses they have operated as joint ventures in the past.

The merger depends on legal, taxation, accounting, regulatory and other issues.
MIAMI, USA -- Forklift and equipment rental giants United Rentals Inc and Neff Corporation have ended talks that would have led to United Rentals taking control of Neff.

United Rentals submitted an informal proposal to Neff on January 2 to acquire more than 70% of the equity in Neff, and about 80% of voting rights, for US$314 million, including US$37 million in United Rentals common stock.

But the talks ended on February 26, a week after United Rentals extended its proposal. United Rentals announced it would not extend the deadline past the close of business on February 26.

Neff president and chief executive officer Pete Gladis said the company would stop looking for strategic alliances.

"Neff management will now focus on increasing shareholder value by increasing the company's return on assets and strengthening the balance sheet," Mr Gladis said.

"The company is concluding its ... search for strategic alternatives and will seek to improve shareholder value from its existing operations."

The Neff-United proposal would have been supported by all principal Neff stockholders, including GE Capital Corporation, which would have purchased newly issued United Rentals stock to retain their investments.

United Rentals claims to be North America's largest equipment rental company, with 740 locations in 47 states, Canada and Mexico. United Rentals has more than 500,000 machines in more than 600 machine types, including aerial high reach equipment, forklifts, industrial equipment and heavy machinery.

Based in Miami, Florida, Neff Corp is the seventh-largest equipment rental company in the US, with 83 locations in 17 states, and annual revenue of about US$260 million. Neff hires and sells forklifts and other industrial equipment on behalf of MQ, Walker, IR, JLG and Gradall.
DEWSBURY, UK -- SMH Ltd, formerly known as Swire Materials Handling, has reached an agreement to become the exclusive UK distributor for US company Clark MHC, from April this year.

A specially-formed subsidiary, Clarklift UK Ltd, will distribute Clark trucks through SMH depots, and supply existing Clark dealers on behalf of Clark Europe. No financial details of the deal have been released.

The move completes Clark Europe's separation from BT Rolatruc. The separation was initiated following the takeover of Rolatruc's parent company, BT Industries, by Toyota in Japan.

The association of Clark and Rolatruc had added Clark's yard truck to the Rolatruc range. Toyota's acquisition removes Rolatruc's need for Clark's product, and Clarklift will essentially take over BT Rolatruc's role.

SMH says it now has exclusive access to the "largest counterweight lift truck range available", from compact cushion-tyred trucks to pneumatic and elastic tyre trucks.

Clark Europe president Dr Frithjof Timm said the alliance was a "considerable advantage" for the US company.

Clark was the first lift truck manufacturer to digitise its global spare parts range. SMH has been integrated into the system, which stores information on more than three million spare parts and 30,000 illustrations.

Dr Timm said an agreement had been made between Clarklift and BT Rolatruc for BT to access Clark spare parts directly from SMH.

Swire Materials Handling was bought from parent company John Swire & Sons on July 4, 2000, by Roy Fewster, then managing director of Lex Harvey, the largest independent forklift hire company in the UK.
SYDNEY, Australia -- Sydney's Darling Harbour, with the backdrop of the world-famous Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, will host more than 1000 international materials-handling executives when it presents Supply Chain Week from May 21-25.

More than 5000 visitors are expected to be drawn to the fair at the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre. The week is split into two parts - the Smart 2001 Conference and the Materials Handling and Distribution (MHD) 2001 Exhibition.

Smart 2001 will focus on the integration of ecommerce with the materials handling business. More than 60 presentations will be given by international and Australian experts.

MHD 2001 will have two major elements - an exhibition reflecting the critical role of the internet in modern materials handling, and a traditional materials handling exhibition.

For more information, go to

SWEDEN -- SMV Lifttrucks AB has announced an expansion to its UK arm, SMV UK, with two key appointments.

Peter Astley, a Kalmar veteran, has joined the company as sales manager, and will oversee the northern UK sales operations. Mr Astley worked with Kalmar for 34 years, the last seven in sales.

John Leary has joined SMV UK as operations manager, responsible for national after-sales activities for the group's UK customers. Mr Leary joins SMV after 21 years with UK company Exxtor Shipping Services. For the past nine years, he was workshop manager, responsible for the maintenance of Exxtor's fleet of large forklifts and reach stackers.

SMV UK managing director David Cooper said the SMV group was "fast becoming a well respected name in the UK heavy materials handling market".

MELBOURNE, Australia -- PJB Electronics Australasia Pty Ltd, a leading manufacturer of electronic monitoring and control systems for forklifts and heavy machinery, is looking to broaden its horizons on the global market.

PJB national sales manager Joe Kelly said PJB's monitoring and shutdown system was not based on cutting-edge technology, but on simplicity and durability "to cut downtime and ease of maintenance".

Mr Kelly said the unique system could be set to almost any parameters to ensure the smooth, safe running of materials-handling equipment from forklifts to reachstackers and other heavy machinery.

The adaptable system can be varied to being as simple as shutting a machine down when the oil runs out, to recording that data, including who was driving, where and when.

PJB's system can monitor a container handler's twistlocks. If they are not properly secured, the hydraulics shut down, disabling the lifting mechanism until the container is secure.

"We find companies are outlaying huge sums of money for maintenance on their machines, never knowing that it may be their employees' driving that causes a machine to be down all the time," Mr Kelly said.

"There is no use buying a big machine if you have no intention of looking after it."

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