Wings of Desire plans to become Aim high-flier

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The Independent Online
Wings of Desire, a Mayfair-based chauffeured Bentley and motorcycle company run by two ex-fruit and vegetable traders, is considering a stock market flotation on Aim or the Ofex market in the next 12 months.

The company, which runs a fleet of classic vehicles including soft-topped Bentley Azures, Bentley Brooklands and 1100cc Honda Pan European touring motorcycles, jets and helicopters, was founded three years ago by identical twins Alan and Brian Pickles. They had been running a fruit and vegetable stall in Convent Garden for 13 years.

"As we got older we thought it was about time we had a decent car. We were so in love with Bentleys that we bought one. Then we wanted a matching pair. We soon realised that we had cars with presence which we could use to provide a sense of romance. The Bentley is the last great luxury liner of the road," Alan Pickles said.

Wings of Desire, whose customers include BSkyB, Bloomberg and Sumitomo Bank, is tiny, but growing fast. The company expects to generate pounds 2m of sales in the year to February 1998 and a small profit. Sales last year were pounds 400,000.

The company's expansion plans, which include building on its continental European contracts, should be helped by links with Far and Middle Eastern dignitaries, forged by its third director - Per Svensson, a Dane, who sold sailboats in Singapore for 12 years and whose wife has connections with the Sultan of Brunei.

The group's biggest contract so far, worth around pounds 100,000, was providing 55 vehicles for the state visit to London in June of President Fidel Ramos of the Philippines. The group provides Bentleys to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed of Malaysia when he visits England and, in a contract worth around pounds 200,000, will supply up to 80 vehicles to the Indonesian, Philippine and Malay embassies at an Asean meeting in London in April next year.

The company is meeting Kingdom Establishment, the investment company owned by Prince Al Waleed, nephew of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and shareholder in CitiCorp and Eurodisney, in the next few months to explore the idea of offering luxury transport to his hotel, the George V in Paris. The Pickles hope to raise pounds 1m in a flotation to expand the group's fleet.

Alan says the group's image - peacock blue Bentleys and chauffeurs and bikers dressed in cravats and trench coats or military "lancer" tunics - is an attempt to recreate a romantic age: "We are the Coco Chanel of the transport business," he said. "We want to give the public some visual enjoyment. Our look is very splendid. There is great visual appeal in uniforms."

The company has about a dozen full time drivers, but employs part-timers including around 60 police officers for state occasions.