Last month Asset Alliance shocked the used truck world with its acquisition of Essex-based dealership Hanbury Riverside.
Now Hanbury Riverside will sit alongside other names at Asset Alliance Group, including ATE Truck and Trailer Sales, Forest Asset Finance and Total Reefer. Set up in 2010, Asset Alliance is run by MD Willie Paterson, and Commercial Motor caught up with him at Hanbury Riverside on the north bank of the Thames Estuary to get the full story on the Hanbury Riverside deal.
“This opportunity came at a time when we were looking to have a depot in the south. Therefore the pedigree of the vendor made it attractive to me – Glyn Davies and Lee Smith have a terrific reputation.
“But the bit that made it so attractive to us, is that it really is a mini version of Asset Alliance. It has got a contract-hire fleet, fixed long-term contracts and a really good used sales department. And in many ways the used sales department is actually slightly stronger than ours. Obviously our ATE business turns over a lot more assets, in excess of 2,000 to 3,000 a year. [Hanbury Riverside is smaller], but it is very retail-focused. We like that. We want to be recognised as the go-to place. The only way to do that is have a really strong brand and a really strong reputation.”
Hanbury Riverside was not openly for sale, Paterson explains. He says the Hanbury management team were aware they were in their early sixties and the business would need to move on in order to support its loyal customer and supplier base. But life can be serendipitous…
“A very good friend came up to me at the Commercial Motor Awards [in November 2017, where Asset Alliance won Rental and Leasing Company of the Year and Finance Provider of the Year] and said that we would be a very good fit for them – the culture was right and the drive was right. I put a call in and we met a week later. We basically agreed the deal on a handshake. Obviously a lot of detail goes in after that!”
Paterson sat down with Glyn Davies (winner of the Motor Transport Service to Industry Award in 2016) to share the strengths and weaknesses of the businesses and establish what the businesses would look like post-acquisition. While the deal – which incorporated vehicle assets of more than £17m – took “a bit longer” than originally planned, it came together on 6 August.
Three of the directors will retire – the aforementioned Davies, alongside Philip West and non-active director Ian Wilson. Smith will stay on to head the business and “take it to our next level of anticipated growth” , says Paterson. “That’s this afternoon’s job, to agree targets! Lee and his team have a lot of ambition. There is still a lot of business to chase here in the south.”
The Hanbury Riverside acquisition gives Asset Alliance a strong position in the London market. The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will be in place from 8 April 2019, which means there is an opportunity for Asset Alliance and Hanbury Riverside to fill the needs of customers.
Times are changing
Last month the SMMT warned that new truck sales had been suppressed as a result of uncertainties over “the political and economic climate” , as well as concerns over the multitude of clean air zones set to roll out across the UK. It won’t have escaped readers’ notice that times are changing: “We believe that we are in the biggest period of change our generation has known so far,” says Paterson. “Consider, we have come through a credit crunch, an independence referendum for Scotland and now we are going through Brexit. We’ve gone from Euro-3 to Euro-6. I don’t believe that any generation has gone though so much change, certainly post-war. You need a business that has a strategy to adapt to constant change, and I believe we certainly have that.”
In July Asset Alliance almost doubled its asset-based lending (ABL) facility to £145m, after extending its existing funding and securing backing from two more banks. It first obtained a £75m revolving ABL deal in 2016, led by NatWest and supported by HSBC. It has now extended that credit facility even further, and secured fresh backing from Clydesdale Bank and Shawbrook Bank.
“We’ve enhanced our funding from two banks to four, which will allow us to ensure we have continued liquidity and capital and to grow our lending book for the next five years,” he says. “We do not like surprises and we like to make sure we are planning well in advance.
“We are already pretty much cleared of our Euro-5 and older stock. We saw this coming and put a plan in place a year ago to make sure we were shortening the life of our stock. We have a very good and growing leasing portfolio, with some £20m of equipment coming back over the next year or 18 months. That is the lifeblood of the used stock,” Paterson explains.
“The Hanbury business and ATE business stand on their own commercially, and they are ultimately there to support the leasing business, which is the core part of the group. Therefore, if the businesses support each other in a two-way relationship then we are optimising them.
“We’re always looking at something. There is always something in the opportunity pile!”