M&A Market Heats Up with December Surprises

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A lot of people were taken by surprise recently waking up to the news that United Rentals was acquiring RSC. In a conceptual sense, it wasn't surprising. People in the rental industry have expected some degree of consolidation at the top among major rental companies for a while. If you've been backpacking in the Himalayas and somehow missed this news, check it out at: http://rermag.com/trends_analysis/headlinenews/united-rentals-buys-rsc-industrys-largest-merger-121611/.

Names and rumors are bandied about periodically. I'll occasionally get a call from a Wall Street type analyst asking me something to the effect of “Do you think Sunbelt is going to buy Hertz?” No, I'm not starting a rumor here, I just picked those names out of the air. You could insert any name of a major player: Neff, Ahern, NES, pick it, the rumors fly when they fly.

But there wasn't any buzz about United/RSC, at least nothing came across my radar screen and nobody I spoke with afterwards had heard rumors about it either. So maybe the “if there's smoke there's fire” cliché is outdated. Maybe if you don't hear any rumors, there's really something to think about.

In some ways this merger is good news for the smaller independent rental companies. In many markets there will now be one less competitor. For example, in a particular market, perhaps United and RSC each have two branches and the new merged company now determines they don't need that many. We will undoubtedly see some closing branches, perhaps fewer locations out there, one less major competitor in some markets.

Inevitably some people will lose their positions and I'm certainly not touting that as something to celebrate. The up side is that some independents and smaller companies may soon find some pretty good mechanics, branch managers, sales people and others looking for work, so keep your eyes open.

One person e-mailed me concerned about United Rentals becoming too big and I pointed out what analyst Dan Kaplan said, that United has about 7 percent of the market and RSC about 4 percent. That adds up to 11 percent, so obviously this industry is still very fragmented with plenty of room for independents.

Another December surprise was Volvo Rents acquisition of Midwest Aerials & Equipment, a four-location primarily aerial rental company run by a team of the most dynamic entrepreneurs and managers in the business – Dan Tumminello, Keith Morrell, Dan Martino and Al Alonzo. Volvo Rents has made a spate of acquisitions in 2011, some their own franchises, some independent companies, but few, if any, with the size and scope of Midwest. It's also the first primarily aerial company Volvo Rents has acquired, so it will be very interesting to see how they integrate. For more information about this acquisition, see http://rermag.com/trends_analysis/headlinenews/volvo-rents-acquires-midwest-aerials-121211/index.html

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