Under the deal, Freo and its Global Cranes subsidiary will be acquired by Sterling Cranes (Australia). Sterling’s Edmonton, Alberta, parent company is owned by Marmon Construction Services, itself part of Buffet’s vast Berkshire Hathaway investment firm.

Sterling, established in 1954, owns more than 600 cranes of varying types in North America, with 23 depots across Canada and the USA. It also owns a subsidiary in India, Astha Sterling Crane, with three depots and a range of rough terrains, truck cranes, crawlers and all terrains.

Freo was established in 1974 by Michele Canci. The business is currently run by his son Tony Canci. It has more than 200 cranes, with capacities up to 750t, including all terrains, rough terrains, truck mounted cranes, ‘Franna-style’ pick and carry cranes, and crawlers, from a range of manufacturers. It offers both wet (with operator) and dry (bare rental) hire, as well as specialist heavy lift services.

Both companies are well placed to benefit from booming oil and gas resources. In Canada, Sterling has depots around the Alberta oil sands region. In the US, its Pennsylvania depot gives it access to the Marcellus Shale, where there is considerable growth in new ‘fracking’ wells. In Australia, Freo has benefitted from oil and gas and mining booms in Western Australia and, through Global Crane, Queensland.

“Freo Group and Global Cranes are an excellent fit with our organization as we expand globally,” said David Snyder, president of Marmon Construction Services. “We have much in common. Sterling Crane, Freo Group and Global Cranes all have earned reputations for safe, dependable and flexible service at job sites requiring highly engineered lifts and expert operators, often in remote and rugged environments.”

“We are pleased to join an organization that shares our values of reliable, responsible service,” said Freo Group managing director Tony Canci, who will continue in management of the company. “Sterling Crane and Marmon have the resources and expertise to help our business continue to grow and prosper. We are excited about the future.”

Cranes Today understand the deal has been under discussion since the summer of last year. As all of the businesses are privately held, the terms of the deal have not been disclosed.