No cash to buy a bulldozer? No worries -- just lease one from United Rentals. The company considers itself the #1 commercial and construction equipment renter in the world, serving customers in the commercial, infrastructure, industrial, and residential sectors. It operates through a network of more than 970 locations in the US and Canada, and provides about 3,000 equipment items -- everything from general to heavy construction and industrial equipment to hand tools, special-event items (such as aerial towers), power (diesel generators) and HVAC equipment, and trench-safety equipment. It also sells new and used equipment, as well as rental-related and contractor supplies and parts.
In 2012 United Rentals increased its outlet count from more than 530 to more than 970 after it bought rival RSC Holdings in a cash-and-stock transaction valued at $4.2 billion, or $18 per share, including $2.3 billion in debt. Both companies have suffered from the recession and combining the two will save more than $200 million a year by eliminating redundant infrastructure, branches, and overhead. The combined businesses will also be in a more strategic position for serving industrial customers.
Before the acquisition, United Rentals held about a 9% market share in the US construction/industrial equipment rental industry. It counts commercial construction as its largest end-market, representing about 54% of its rental revenues. The company's general rentals operations cover seven geographic regions throughout the US and northeast Canada. United Rentals expanded its Canadian operations in 2011 with two acquisitions, first buying Venetor Group, a rental equipment company with seven locations in Ontario, and then Ontario Laser Rentals, a lessor of trench safety equipment with two locations in Ontario and one in Montreal.
Revenue rose about 17% in 2011 compared with 2010. Equipment rentals, accounting for 82% of revenue, surged 17% while the company's next largest segment, sales of rental equipment, 8% of revenue, soared 44%. Sales of new equipment increased 7%. Contractor supply sales and service and other revenue were down 10% and 3%, respectively. Equipment rentals did well behind an increase in the volume of original equipment cost on rent. An increase in rental rates also contributed. Sales of rental equipment were pushed up by increased volume, better pricing, and a new mix of equipment. After weathering a net loss of $62 million in 2009 and one of $26 million in 2010 amid a tough economy, United Rentals enjoyed a net income of $101 million in 2011 along with its strong sales uptick.
United Rentals enhances its operating efficiencies by ramping up through consolidation of functions, including payroll and accounts payable. In order to manage the age, composition and size of its fleet, the company routinely sells used rental equipment and invests in new equipment. United Rentals acts as a dealer of new equipment for many leading equipment makers such as Genie Industries, Skyjack (aerial lifts), Sullair (compressors), and Terex (telehandlers). At most branches United Rentals sells various supplies and merchandise and offers repair and maintenance services.
United Rentals has simultaneously beefed up its presence in the energy market. In late 2011 it purchased the assets of Blue Mountain Equipment Rental Corporation, which caters to the oil and gas industry working in the Marcellus Shale through two locations in Pennsylvania and one in West Virginia. Earlier that year it bought GulfStar Rental Solutions, a power and HVAC equipment rental company in the south. GulfStar adds three locations in Texas and Louisiana, deepening its customer base along the Gulf Coast, as well as paving the way for cross-marketing its general and aerial rental portfolio.
Although United Rentals' customers range from FORTUNE 500 companies to small businesses and homeowners, it targets larger customers, which tend to rent for longer terms and are timely in payment. Because of its size, United Rentals rallies more resources over smaller businesses. Competitive advantages include more purchasing leverage, a wider range of equipment and services, and the more convenient movement of assets between locations.
BlackRock, Inc. holds a stake of more than 10% in the rental business. The investment firm is among the world's most established financial advisors – less