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New era for Precision Geomatics as A-Plant acquires business from long-term owner

A North East industrial equipment supply business is moving into a new era after being acquired by the UK's largest plant, tool and equipment hire company.

Precision Geomatics supplies land survey, setting out, machine control and safety equipment from a range of industry-leading suppliers through its headquarters in Sunderland and its East Kilbride Regional Survey Centre.

It was formed in 2004 after managing director Gwyneth Bell completed a management buy-out of the Sunderland survey centre of Japanese equipment manufacturer SOKKIA, of which she had been the regional director.

After being involved with the business for over a quarter of a century, Gwyneth has now sold Precision Geomatics to industry peer Opti-Cal Survey Equipment,  a division of Ashtead Plant Hire Company Limited (A-Plant) which is in turn part of FTSE 100-listed Ashtead Group plc, the second largest equipment rental group in the world.

Long-term advisor Michael Cantwell of RMT Accountants & Business Advisors worked with Gwyneth on all aspects of the sale of the business, while legal advice was provided by corporate partners Mark Lazenby and John Hammill and senior associate Ashraf Ali of North East commercial law firm Square One Law.

Precision Geomatics has quadrupled its workforce since the 2004 MBO, and all of the 50-strong team are staying in post under the new owners, with Carole Bookless retaining her role as general manager across the firm’s two sites.

The business has long-term relationships with many of the biggest construction, housebuilding and surveying companies in North East, Cumbria, Yorkshire and Scotland, and has a national client base which stretches from Aberdeen right down to Devon and Cornwall.

As well as retaining the reseller relationship with SOKKIA after the MBO, it also secured similar agreements with several other well-known industry names, such as Dräger, Topcon and Cable Detection, and will now gain access to a wider range of equipment brands which are already supplied by A-Plant.

Gwyneth Bell says: “Precision Geomatics holds a strong position in a range of markets right across the UK, and the expertise and commitment of our staff has been the key factor in the success that the business has enjoyed over the years.

“When we were looking at potential buyers, the way in which we felt they would look after and develop the team was our top priority, and having seen how well other companies have fared after being acquired by A-Plant, they became our preferred buyer as soon as we knew they were interested.

“The deal we reached wasn’t the most financially lucrative on offer to us, but we knew it would be the best option for both the team and the future of the business, and it’s great to know that everything we’ve worked for over so many years is in safe hands.

“RMT and Square One Law kept us fully informed as the sale process progressed, smoothed over any problems that arose and found solutions whenever they were needed – their professionalism and expert guidance has been absolutely invaluable.”

Michael Cantwell, head of corporate finance at RMT Accountants, adds: “We had a lot of interest in Precision Geomatics from a number of potential buyers, but A-Plant’s industry position and reputation made them stand out as the best option.

“Having known Gwyneth for many years, it’s great to be able to reach such a positive conclusion for everyone involved and we’re expecting to see Precision Geomatics flourish under its new ownership.”

Mark Lazenby, head of the corporate team at Square One Law, adds: “There are natural synergies between the two equipment businesses and it was great to work on this transaction with Gwyneth and Carole, who both have vast experience in this sector.”

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