Brammer PLC - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Brammer PLC

Claverton Court, Claverton Road
M23 9NE
United Kingdom

Company Perspectives

Brammer is the pan-European added value technical distributor with a local presence.

History of Brammer PLC

Brammer PLC is Europe's leading distributor of replacement industrial components, focusing on Bearings, Power Transmission belts and other components, and Fluid Power components. Twice the size of its largest competitors, Dexis in France and Eriks in The Netherlands, Brammer nonetheless controls just 3 percent of the heavily fragmented European replacement components market. Into the mid-2000s, Brammer has been capitalizing on this situation, initiating a drive to deepen its European penetration. As part of that effort, the company launched a rebranding exercise in 2004, designed to regroup all of its subsidiaries under the single Brammer name upon completion. Brammer continues to generate much of its revenues from the United Kingdom, where it operates from 136 locations. France is the group's next largest market, with 41 locations, followed by Spain, Germany, and the Benelux markets, as well as Austria, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Altogether, Brammer operates from 253 locations. A growing part of this comes as part of Brammer's Insites service, which places Brammer employees inside client corporations, taking over their inventory and purchasing needs. As of 2005, the company operated nearly 50 Insites locations, primarily in the United Kingdom and in France. Brammer was originally founded by Harry Brammer, inventor of the V-link transmission belt system, among other inventions. The company went public in 1954 on the London Stock Exchange. David Dunn is current company CEO and chairman.

Inventive Origins in the 1920s

Harry Brammer was a noted Yorkshire area inventor in the post-World War I era, when he founded his own company in order to exploit one of his inventions, the V-Link transmission belt system. Brammer was credited with a number of other inventions, including the first bicycle toe-clip system. With £3,000 in start-up capital, Brammer launched H. Brammer and Company Limited in 1920, opening a factory in Leeds. The V-link belt became an important component of the growing automotive industry, and later also became known as the Brammer belt.

Brammer went public in 1954, listing on the London Stock Exchange, and remained a small company focused on its core of transmission belt manufacturing into the 1960s. In 1967, Brammer nearly was acquired by friendly rival Croft Engineering (that company's founder had held a seat on Brammer's board of directors), which was then threatened by a hostile takeover bid. Part of Croft's defense involved a takeover of Brammer, for some £2.5 million. Although Brammer's board, which held some 27 percent of the company's stock, agreed to the deal, the acquisition by Croft ultimately failed.

With its independence upheld, Brammer decided to launch its own expansion drive at the end of the 1960s. Rather than increase its industrial belt business, however, Brammer sought new, complementary areas of operations. The company made its first acquisition in early 1968, acquiring Ixion Drives. The following year, the company made a new acquisition, paying £675,000 to acquire Bearing Services, based in Manchester. Bearing Services supplied replacement industrial bearings to the local market, and formed the basis of what was to develop into Brammer's single largest division.

Both acquisitions helped Brammer grow strongly into the early 1970s, driving its profits to more than £1 million for the first time in 1971; by the end of 1974, the company's profits had topped £2 million. By then, Brammer also had launched its first efforts to enter the continental European market. In 1973, the company bought a major share in France's Transmondiale, a subsidiary of Renault, which operated in the industrial bearing replacement and distribution market. The shareholding gave Brammer a foothold in the French market, which remained the group's second largest market after the United Kingdom into the next century.

Brammer next eyed entry into the German market, and in 1973 the company bought two companies located in Bielefeld. The first, Asemissen, specialized in the distribution and wholesaling of automotive components, and the second, Annex, specialized in the distribution and wholesaling of automotive accessories. These acquisitions became part of Brammer's intention to establish itself in the automotive components market in the United Kingdom as well. The company achieved this in 1973 through the acquisition of ES Heap & Co., a well-known supplier of automotive components, based in Yorkshire, with four branches, as well as a business supplying the supermarket channel. On the industrial side, Brammer made a tentative effort to move overseas, buying up Florida Bearings and Antilles Bearings, related companies operating in Miami and Puerto Rico, respectively.

Shifting Focus in the 1980s

The difficult years following the Arab Oil Embargo in the early 1970s cut short Brammer's automotive components ambitions. By 1976, the company was forced to sell off its ES Heap subsidiary, as well as another business, Replacement Services. The company ultimately withdrew entirely from the automotive components market in 1977. By then, however, the company had put into place a new strategy focused on boosting its industrial services offerings, in a move meant to provide the company with greater stability and resistance against the cyclical automotive market. The company also had some success on the automotive front as well, developing its own synthetic belt in 1976.

Brammer returned to the United States, this time acquiring two businesses, Master Pumps and Pope Machinery, including six distribution centers. These additions, the new synthetic belts, and the tighter focus on the industrial market helped Brammer exhibit strong growth through the end of the 1970s, boosting its turnover from £21 million at mid-decade to more than £39 million at decade's end.

By the early 1980s, Bearing Services had grown into Brammer's most important source of revenues; by 1982, that division accounted for some three-quarters of the company's total sales. Bearing Services also had captured the lead in the British bearing market. Brammer launched a new bid to diversify beyond its core industrial components products, in order to reduce its reliance on that single division. In 1983, therefore, the company paid £5 million to take over United Electronic Holdings, a company that operated a chain of stores selling accessories for the hi-fi and video equipment markets.

Brammer's growth attracted the interests of a number of competitors during the 1980s, a period marked by a frenzy of hostile takeovers and the rise of a new breed of corporate raiders. Among those interested in Brammer's collection of companies, including its dominant status in the British replacement bearings market, was Bunzl. That company began buying up shares in Brammer, before launching a takeover bid worth £117 million. Brammer, perhaps remembering the Croft defense in the 1960s, fought back, turning around to launch a friendly acquisition offer for Energy Services and Electronics (ESE). Although Brammer faced competition for that company from a Dutch-owned rival, the company held firm and raised its offer, in part because Bunzl had made its own takeover conditional on Brammer dropping the ESE bid. In the end, Brammer won the day, acquiring ESE for £44 million in 1985. Bunzl dropped its takeover bid soon after.

The ESE purchase proved a transforming one for Brammer, adding a new electronics rentals division, grouped around Livingston Hire, to the company's operation, while boosting its electronics offering. As a result, Brammer restructured, selling off a number of businesses, such as subsidiaries Brammer Transmission and Russells Rubber. The company, now regrouped around a dual core of Bearing Services and Rentals, had significantly reduced the former's share of its operations, down to just 35 percent. In the meantime, the ESE purchase helped raise the group's electronics operations to 35 percent of its revenues.

Pan-European Leader in the New Century

Brammer continued to display its flexibility in adapting its business structure to changing market conditions. In the early 1990s, with the creation of a single European market, the company adopted a new strategy of developing itself into a pan-European market leader. The group's Bearing Services division provided the spearhead for this effort, and in 1992, the company expanded its French position, through the acquisition of Roulement Service. That company, founded in Alsace in 1974, had developed a similar profile to Brammer's, with a 10 percent share of the French replacement bearings market, and a 3 percent share of the power transmission sector. The company also grew in Spain, buying up Rodamientos, the largest industrial components replacement provider in the country. By the mid-1990s, Brammer's European expansion had taken it to The Netherlands and Germany, as well. The company's electronic rental division played a strong part in the group's growth into the mid-1990s, becoming the European leader in the sector.

Toward the end of the decade, Brammer's domestic growth had slowed due to a softening market. Instead, the company stepped up its effort to build its European presence. Into the early 2000s, the company launched a series of acquisitions, including the 2000 purchase of the French distribution operations of Germany's Freudenberg & Co. That purchase boosted Brammer's power transmission distribution business. The company returned to France that year, buying up Somelec S.A., a company that calibrated and maintained electronic testing equipment, and two other businesses, Climats and Sapratin, specialized in the sale and maintenance of climatic systems used during the testing of electronic components.

The company's acquisitions continued, with the 2000 acquisition of The Netherlands' Carim B.V., a distributor of bearings and power transmission products, and 51 percent of THF, based in Germany. In 2001 the company bought up Grupo Rabinad in Spain and German bearings and power transmissions specialist Carl Fischer. The company also added Belgium's Anderlecht Bearing Service that year.

The slump in the electronics and telecommunications sectors brought the company's electronic rentals division into difficulty, with main subsidiary Livingstone Hire slipping into the red by 2003. Brammer announced its intention to exit the market, and in 2004 completed the sale of Livingstone Hire in a management buyout. Instead, Brammer now announced that it intended to set itself up as a one-stop supplier for Europe's increasingly international manufacturing market. As part of that effort, the company launched a two-step rebranding exercise, designed to bring all of its subsidiaries under the single Brammer name.

Brammer moved to consolidate its holdings into the mid-2000s. The company took full control of THF in 2003, then bought up full control of KNS Aandrijftechniek in The Netherlands the following year. By 2005, the company had begun to look toward Central Europe as well. After moving into Hungary, in September 2005, the company announced an agreement to acquire 51 percent of MHBH, a specialist industrial services company, in the Czech Republic. As part of that agreement, Brammer gained the option of taking full control of MHBH by 2009. As the leader in the highly fragmented European market, Brammer looked forward to strong growth in the years to come.

Principal Subsidiaries

AKN GmbH (Austria); Britannia Wälzlager & Industrietechnik GmbH (Austria); Brammer Belgium N.V.; AWEXIM Brammer S.R.O. (Czech Republic); Roulement Service S.A.S. (France); THF Brammer GmbH & Co. KG (Germany); AKN Carim (Holland); KNS Aandrijftechniek BV (Holland); Brammer Magyarorszag Kereskedelmi es Szolgaltato Kft (Hungary); USA Brammer, S.A. (Spain); BSL Brammer Limited.

Principal Competitors

Dexis S.A.; Eriks N.V.; Deetwyler AG; Wyko PLC; Orefi S.A.; Econosto N.V.; Gruppo Minetti S.p.A.; Biachi S.p.A.


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