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Certex UK bought by Axel Johnson International

Certex UK, one of the nation's leading distributors of lifting equipment supplying the steel and construction industries, looks set to increase its purchasing power and market profile following a recent announcement that the company has just become part of worldwide and privately-owned Axel Johnson International.

Certex's three owner-directors, who acquired Certex UK from Bridon International in 2005 as the result of a successful management buyout, agreed to sell Certex UK for an undisclosed sum to Forankra International AB, a Swedish subsidiary of Axel Johnson International and a market leader in the supply of lifting and lashing equipment across Europe.

The purchase is being seen as an invaluable growth opportunity for both parties and will build on Certex UK's continued success since the three current owners Tony Stringer (MD), Charles Gillespie (Sales & Marketing) and Kevin Smith (Operations) bought the company three years ago. Under their leadership, Certex's annual turnover has grown from £12.5m to in excess of £18m with a related profit increase for the same period and the number of employees rising from 154 to 185.

It is the directors' intention that the company will continue to outperform in key areas of the lifting industry with the added financial backing of the high profile Forankra International, a subsidiary made up of three business areas – Allsafe, Certex and Forankra. A further nine Certex companies are currently owned by Forankra, including Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Germany.

Axel Johnson International first approached Certex UK during 2007 with a view to expanding its Certex network. This means that Certex UK will retain its name, current autonomous infrastructure, directors and senior management team and existing UK premises. Commercial advantages as a result of the deal will include Certex UK having the opportunity to source new products and suppliers using Forankra's increased purchasing power; the possibility of integrated IT systems giving stock visibility across Europe; access to funding to accelerate Certex UK's acquisition strategy within the UK, and a stronger international Offshore presence that will undoubtedly increase the company's market share of the UK Offshore market.

Certex UK Managing Director, Tony Stringer, comments: “When Axel Johnson first approached us last year it was not part of our business plan to seek a purchaser for Certex UK. Their interest was both flattering and reassuring but having worked so hard to grow the company since we bought it in 2005 that all three of us, as owners and directors, were reluctant to let it go, as was our Finance Director, Adrian Tomkinson. That said, once we began discussions with Forankra it became apparent that we could benefit from the commercial strength of joining such a prestigious international group without losing out on any of the autonomy and high levels of customer service we enjoy at ground level. Having talked with Forankra at great length – as well as comparing notes with our sister companies overseas – we are confident that Certex UK will retain its core values bringing only positive change for our customers and staff.”

Sven-Olof Berntsson, Managing Director of Forankra International, adds: “Certex UK excels in the supply, maintenance and related training for specialist lifting equipment and we are delighted to be joining forces with them in sourcing new and exciting market opportunities. Our customer base includes some of the world's largest shipping and transport companies, as well as leading players in the airline, mining, steel, paper, engineering and manufacturing industries. I have no doubt that Certex UK's technical expertise and extensive product knowledge will add an invaluable dimension to the Forankra International portfolio.”

New premises, investment and acquisitions

The announcement coincides with Certex UK's move into new purpose-built headquarters at Harworth, Nottinghamshire. The 49,000 ft² site houses a new head office (relocated from Doncaster), a central warehouse and state-of-the-art production facilities. More than £400K has been invested in new manufacturing and testing equipment including two new 10-tonne overhead travelling cranes to allow the handling of larger piece weights. Seven of the company's regional lifting centres have been moved into new premises while a further £200K has been spent on a fleet of new service vehicles.

Since the buyout three years ago, Certex UK has also acquired RopeTek Ltd in South Wales and Certex Defence in the South West, formerly Global Defence Procurement Ltd. with offices at naval bases in Plymouth and Portsmouth servicing marine and industrial equipment to the MoD and its prime contractors.

A new lifting centre has also opened in Aberdeen as part of the company's commitment to increasing services for offshore customers.

Axel Johnson International is part of the Axel Johnson AB group of companies.

Axel Johnson AB is a fourth and fifth generation family enterprise within trade and trade-related services on the European market, with main emphasise on Sweden. Today Axel Johnson AB consists of Axel Johnson International, Novax, Servera, Svensk BevakningsTjänst and The Åhléns Group together with jointly owned and publicly listed Axfood and Mekonomen. In total, the wholly and partly owned companies have approximately 17,000 employees.

Axel Johnson AB is one of three separate and financially independent groups of enterprises in The Axel Johnson Group, along with AxFast and American Axel Johnson Inc. In addition, the Axel Johnson Group has ownership interests in Nordstjernan and in the British company Spirent. The Axel Johnson Group is owned by Antonia Ax:son Johnson and family.

Forankra International AB is a subsidiary to Axel Johnson International and is the leading supplier of lifting and lashing equipment in Europe. Forankra International AB designs and supplies equipment and materials for the lifting and securing of cargo to trucks, trailers, aircraft and Ro-Ro vessels. Customers include some of the biggest shipping and transport companies in the world, as well as major airlines, car manufacturers, paper mills and steel industries. Forankra International AB has subsidiaries in Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Holland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Sweden and Russia. Forankra International AB has a turnover of 200million Euro.

Certex UK (www.certex.co.uk) is one of the UK's leading distributors of lifting products and services, with an estimated 8% of the market share. Customers come from within the manufacturing, steel, construction, offshore, oil, gas, port and shipping industries. The company operates from a newly-opened 48,000 sq ft headquarters in Nottinghamshire backed up by 16 regional lifting centres. The company's 185 employees provide a national service to local customers who have specific local needs. These are located in Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Erith, Glasgow, Gloucester, Great Yarmouth, Plymouth, Portsmouth/Devonport, Retford, Southampton, St. Helens, Tyneside and Wakefield.

• Recognised for its outstanding expertise and knowledge in lifting standards, legislation and product quality, Certex UK supplies only top branded names e.g. Bridon Ropes, Crosby fittings for ropes and chains, Kuplex chain systems, Elephant chain blocks, Viking branded slings and Walker magnets. Certex has also developed its own brand of chain blocks, lever hoists and accessories. The Bulldog range is renowned for its quality and high performance.

• Certex Defence has offices within the Portsmouth and Devonport Naval bases. It offers the sales and servicing of a wide range of marine and industrial equipment to the Ministry of Defence and its prime contractors, as well as to the commercial, leisure and fishing industries.

• Certex Offshore has facilities in Aberdeen and Great Yarmouth. It offers complete lifting products and services to leading oil and service companies.

• Certex UK is one of the few companies in the marketplace offering a complete solution package. This comprises product supply and installation, inspection, testing, repair and maintenance, training services and certification management. It also offers a product hire service.

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