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New Minoan acquisition gives group a foothold in Aberdeen

MINOAN Group, the Glasgow-based leisure operator, has landed another acquisition for its travel business, which will give it a foothold in Aberdeen and the city's buoyant corporate market.

Martin Singer Travel, based in Inverurie and founded in 1983, will be the eighth business acquired by the AIM-listed group's high street division Stewart Travel.

Duncan Wilson, the division's managing director, said: "We have been trying to find the appropriate place in Aberdeen and we have been in discussions for a while."

Last October, when Minoan announced a three-year 8% loan facility of up to £5m with Hillside International Holdings, a family wealth office based in Jersey, to fund the growth of the travel division, Mr Wilson said it showed "banks were closed for business".

He said yesterday: "It is not burning a hole in our pockets, just because we have the money we won't buy the wrong thing."

The former Airtours chief executive was behind the group's relocation two years ago to Glasgow, where it has said the capacity exists to treble the division's current £50m revenue to £150m. Last year, it consolidated its seven 'buy and build' acquisitions in the sector, all of them in Scotland, under the Stewart Travel brand.

Singer, which had an annual turnover of £2.23m last year and made a pre-tax profit of £131,000, is being bought for a maximum £500,000, with half the cash payment up front.

Mr Wilson said: "We have a strict basis on how we do these acquisitions... broadly we pay four times profits, twice the previous year's and twice the following year's. It is particularly interesting because of the corporate market, which is growing strongly again as the general economy comes out of the tsunami of the last few years."

He added: "Aberdeen in particular is growing, we have a good corporate business which itself is doing very well, a couple of corporate customers in Aberdeen already and a couple of prospective ones, and it is important to have a place on the ground rather than simply get online."

Minoan said the deal showed "the success of the buy-and-build strategy" of the division which, as it said last month, would report revenues of around £50m and an operating profit of over £600,000 when the group reported its full-year results later this month.

The acquisition is expected to enhance earnings this year.

Minoan, meanwhile, has submitted the critical strategic environmental assessment for its core Cretan resort project, which is due to complete consultation this month.

Mr Wilson said: "We have had a very strong start to this year.

"We are very pleased on all fronts... progress is being made in Greece and we anticipate some very positive announcements in the next month or so." He said that further high street acquisitions were on the radar, and one might be tied up within weeks, adding: "Our aspirations are not limited to Scotland, we have been looking south of the Border for some time and got close once or twice."

Minoan shares, which climbed 13% on Friday to a two-year high of 15.12p, eased 0.88p to 14.25p.

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