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Computer chain floats a good idea

PERTH-BASED computer rental chain Hire Intelligence’s planned float on the Australian Stock Exchange has aroused the interest of several big players.

Hire Intelligence is seeking to raise $10.8 million through the listing and, according to managing director and chairman Thomas Crage, institutional investor Colonial First State and Wilson Asset Management have signalled they wish to take a significant stake in the fast-growing company.

There also has been speculation that media magnate Kerry Packer is involved in the offer, but Mr Crage declined to comment on the subject.

However, he did note that the company had received 135 expressions of interest from staff and franchisees, worth about $944,000.

“And I believe that is a wonderful expression of faith and support, we are very excited about the response,” Mr Crage said.

Hire Intelligence is offering for subscription 14.6 million new shares and seven million vendor shares at 50 cents per share.

According to the December 10 prospectus, the shares on offer represent 28.1 per cent of the total company shares, the bulk of which will remain in the hands of founding shareholders.

The Hire Intelligence chain is made up of 51 franchised territories and two company-owned stores in Perth and the United Kingdom, with the capital raised through the listing to be used by the company to acquire a further five expanding franchise territories in central Sydney and surrounding areas.

International expansion through acquisitions is also on the Hire Intelligence

agenda, following the successful penetration of computer rental markets in the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and the Philippines.

“We want to acquire well managed, profitable computer rental companies in countries such as Japan and the United States and use them as a launching pad for Hire Intelligence expansion,” Mr Crage said.

“And we expect to be doing this within 18 months’ time.”

He said the company had performed well in the past five years with annual turnover growing from $1.2 million in 1995/96 to $19.3 million in 2000/01.

“This represents an average compound growth rate of 74.3 per cent annually,” Mr Crage said.

“And the profits have grown from $100,000 in 1997/98 to $3.8 million for 2000/01.”

The demand for Hire Intelligence’s services was likely to grow as technology developed, he said.

“The pace of technology creates demand for our products, people don’t want to spend lots of money on technology that becomes outdated,” Mr Crage said.

“We also have a number of advantages over other short-term computer rental companies. We have an integrated fleet management and accounting system that allows us to operate more effectively than other companies, which in turn gives us a cost advantage.

“Another advantage is we load anti-virus software on each computer we have so the customers are protected from viruses while they are working.

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