IRN100: who are the world’s largest 100 equipment rental companies?

By Murray Pollok10 June 2021

The IRN100 list published by International Rental News magazine shows how rental businesses around the world were impacted by Covid-19, while also demonstrating their resilience. Murray Pollok reports.

The IRN100 is merciless when it comes to revealing the impact of Covid-19 on the global rental sector. Total revenues at the top 100 companies in 2020 were -6.4% down compared to 2019 and the reduction was closer to -8% when you consider only the top five or 10 companies. It is the first fall since the financial crisis 10 years ago.

In fact, the headline reduction is smaller than might have ben expected and the reasons for that lie in the widely disparate experiences of the pandemic in different parts of the world; differences that were felt even among neighbouring countries.

[Click here to download the full IRN100 report]

That meant that, after adjusting for currency changes (the Euro strengthened against the US dollar, Yen and UK Pound in the year to December 2020), the top five US rental companies saw an average drop of -8.7% year-on-year.

In contrast, the top five Japanese rental businesses saw flat revenues. In the case of Japan, from a business perspective, Covid simply prevented growth.

Divergence between countries
That divergence in fortunes is seen most graphically in Europe, where businesses operating very close to each other endured quite different fates. Both Zeppelin Rental and HKL Baumaschinen, for example, grew their businesses in 2020, helped by the collective decision by German government, industry associations and unions to continue working on construction.

The same was not always true in markets like France, the UK, Italy and Spain. As a result, the largest generalists in the region – exposed to some of the worst affected countries - saw an average revenue drop of -8.7%, which is almost identical to the US experience.

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The UK was a special case, hit both by Brexit uncertainties and Covid. Here, there was a typical decline of around 10% in revenues in 2020, although note that the results for a few prominent players, including GAP Group, are for the year to the end of March 2020, before the full impact was felt.

Sunbelt Rentals UK, whose results are contained within parent company Ashtead Group, bucked that trend by winning significant levels of business – including sales of equipment – in support of the public health measures surrounding the pandemic. Its revenues covering the Covid period actually increased.

Top 10 companies
In some respects, however, this year’s IRN100 survey has a familiar look. The top 10 companies are identical to last year, and the only change is a switch in the ninth and tenth places, with Modulaire (the acquisitive former Algeco Scotsman business) moving up one place and Japan’s Nishio Rent All shifting down.

United Rentals retained its number one position in the 2021 IRN100 survey.

Another major influence on the fortunes of rental companies was the sector in which they worked. Any company exposed heavily to the oil and gas sector – crane companies in the US or any business operating in the Middle East – were severely impacted.

Some, like Houston-based TNT, was forced to seek refuge in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings (from which it has now successfully emerged).

Similarly, those heavily involved in events, often linked to power rentals, were also severely impacted. Aggreko was down 15% year-on-year, while Dubai-based Byrne Equipment Rental – reliant on both petro-economies and events – was down 11%.

Capital expenditure on fleet
Capital expenditure is another key indicator of industry health and it will come as no surprise to see that the top 25 investors in the list this year spent 53% less than the top 25 investors last year. Note that this table is based on investment levels at the top 25 spenders in 2020, who are not necessarily the top 25 companies in the IRN100. Note also that not all companies choose to share this data.

Companies like Kiloutou, Loxam, United Rentals and Ashtead all acted to conserve cash at the onset of the pandemic. Manufacturers had a difficult year, but spending had resumed by the final quarter of 2020 and all indications are that investment in equipment will be at historically high levels again this year.

[Click here to download the full IRN100 report]

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