Fleet News

Highway acquisition accelerates First National growth

FURTHER acquisitions alongside significant organic growth will follow First National Vehicle Holdings' £170 million acquisition of Highway Vehicle Management. The Abbey National subsidiary has long-held ambitions to become a top-three player in the UK contract hire and leasing market by 2003 and that means increasing its now 65,000-strong vehicle fleet by at least a third.

The purchase of Highway adds more than 19,000 units to First National's existing contracts and takes the company into the HGV leasing sector for the first time - as well as almost doubling its light commercial vehicle lease fleet.

Although highly ambitious, First National has ruled itself out of acquiring ACL autolease - the other major leasing company known to be up for sale - saying the purchase of Highway, coupled with the relatively recent acquisition of Brooklyn Vehicle Contracts' customer base, was 'enough to be getting on with'.

James Sturt-Scobie, chief executive of First National, said: 'Highway is an important acquisition for us. It is a well-managed business with a portfolio of contracts which perfectly complements our own and which will give us further purchasing and bargaining power in the marketplace.

'We now have the resources and depth of management in place to run a bigger and better business and we are continuing to look for the right partners to grow ahead of our competitors.'

All Highway's 168 staff, led by Andy Orr, are being retained, along with its Worcester-based sales division, Stirling-based operations centre and Manchester base.

The second half of this year will see First National Vehicle Holdings develop its internet-based leasing and fleet management service for launch early next year. And Sturt-Scobie acknowledged Highway's lead in this field: 'Where it is ahead of us is in developing e-commerce. We are planning to have such an operation and even if we cannot use the exact system, we can use a lot of their infrastructure.'

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