Equistone sells AFI-Uplift to Rutland

London-headquartered Equistone has sold the UK machinery hire business to restructuring firm Rutland Partners, as part of an £85m deal that also saw the latter acquire two smaller businesses.

Equistone Partners Europe has sold AFI-Uplift, a Wakefield-based provider of powered access machines for the construction industry, to Rutland Partners.

Rutland, which will now have a majority stake in the business, also acquired two smaller businesses simultaneously. The total transaction was worth £85 million, according to a statement.  

Equistone did not disclose its exit multiple, but a spokesperson said the divestment generated “a strong return”. 

Equistone invested £15 million in the AFI in September 2006 from its Fund II, when it was still operating as Barclays Private Equity.

Since the investment, AFI has grown – both organically and through add-on acquisitions. Last year, turnover was £32 million, up from £20 million in 2006. “AFI has expanded in the UK, opening several new depots and making strategic bolt-on acquisitions that mean it is well positioned for further growth,” Steve O’Hare, head of Equistone Partners Europe, said in the statement. 

Equistone sold the business to Rutland not because of its restructuring expertise, but because the firm already has an involvement in the equipment hire sector through its investment in Brandon Hire, an Equistone spokesperson added.  

Rutland used its £320 million Rutland Fund II for the transaction. This is the ninth investment from this fund. 

GE Capital has provided a £50 million five year revolving asset based lending facility, with Rutland’s total equity investment expected to be around £32 million. The management team is reinvesting the majority of their existing interests into the enlarged group, Rutland said in a separate statement.