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Investment helps Scottish Motor Auctions' growth

SCOTTISH Motor Auctions (Holdings), the independent car auctioneer, has credited ongoing investment in its auction centres and technology for driving turnover in the 18 months covered by its latest accounts.

The company, which runs auction centres in Kinross and Livingston, said the improved facilities helped it lift turnover to £32.2 million in the 18 months to April 30.

And the business has reported that trading has continued in a positive vein since year-end.

Since then Scottish Motor Auctions has been acquired by sister company SMA Vehicle Remarketing, which includes an auction centre in Leeds. In the first set of accounts to be filed by the merged entity, it is expected to book an operating profit of £2.05 million for the year to the end of October.

Asked to comment on current trading yesterday, finance director David Seabridge said those accounts will show an increase in turnover to £23.5m, based on a six-month contribution from Scottish Motor Auctions and a full year from SMA Vehicle Remarketing. The two concerns had been trading as SMA Remarketing since 2008, but until last year were separate legal entities.

Mr Seabridge said the merged group, which has agreed a £13m refinance deal with Lloyds Banking Group, has continued to invest in improving the facilities and auction centres for staff and customers. This includes a £200,000 spend on updating facilities for staff and customers in Kinross.

It has also continued to invest heavily in its IT infrastructure, which includes an online bidding system, with managing director Bob Anderson noting that in some auctions 20% of sales come via the internet.

Investment in auction sites and technology was credited with driving growth at Scottish Motor Auctions in the 18 months to April 30, 2013, although the company made a pre-tax loss of £1.4m over the period.

The directors write in those accounts that all of its sites had attracted new vendors and customers, with many existing vendors seeing an uplift in volumes.

Scottish Motor Auctions employed 335 staff over the 18-month period, up on the 306 employed in the 12 months before. Staff costs had risen to £13.2m, compared with £7.9m the previous 12 months.

The merged group employs around 500 staff and expects to continue adding to its headcount in Kinross, where numbers rose from 65 to 85 last year.

On current trading, Mr Anderson said yesterday: "We don't see any problem with recession.

"The business is coming out of it, the general economy is coming out of it, and demand for cars is outstripping supply."

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