Auction of heavy-duty machines draws bidders from around globe

After an Internet bidder won back-to-back wheel loaders, auctioneer Pat Hicks told the crowd in front of him, “The emirates are buying today, folks.”

As the Ritchie Bros. two-day heavy equipment auction continued Thursday, more bids came in not only from the United Arab Emirates but also countries such as Canada, Saudi Arabia and even Nepal.

As local builders continue to struggle to fill their order books, “The world is busy,” Ritchie Bros. regional manager Jim Rotlisberger said. “There is a shortage of good late-model equipment out there.”

The winter auction, normally held in February but delayed a month to coincide with the huge Conexpo-Con/Agg convention, set a record for Ritchie Bros. and possibly Las Vegas, with more than 2,400 pieces. Ritchie Bros. has four auctions a year at its lot just north of Nellis Air Force base and signed up more than 3,700 bidders this time.

This included not only the big machines that were paraded past a tent filled with bidder’s-card-wielding buyers, but an assortment of industry leftovers such pipes, tool-filled cabinets, Dumpsters and water tanks.

About three-fourths of the catalog came from local companies, he estimated, as they trimmed their fleets, changed their product mix to reflect different lines of business, or liquidated to raise cash and pay down debt.

One row contained 13 lifts from Ahern Rentals. Elsewhere, more than 20 panel and pickup trucks had the Pulte markings on the doors.

The auction amounted to the final coda of the construction boom from a few years ago, as the equipment that did the literal heavy lifting is now recycled across the country and internationally. During a much smaller auction last August, bidders from outside Nevada won 85 percent of the items.

“With the foreign buyers moving in, the locals pay for it” in higher prices, Rotlisberger said.

The two wheel loaders that went to the United Arab Emirates had a combined price of $82,000. By contrast, the emirates spent only $19,000 on the entire August auction.

For Las Vegas-based Spirit Underground, which now specializes in utility work after cutting back on homebuilding a few years ago, the market trend was both good news and bad news.

“The prices out there are very good,” said fleet manager Mark Eveleigh, helping to boost the take for Spirit on the pieces it sold.

However, he added, that reduced the chances he would buy anything and instead wait for a later auction when the bidding was less competitive.

Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at
toreiley@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290.

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