BRIDGEND Holdings, the Ayrshire-based car sales and repairs company, has defied challenging conditions in the motor retail market to record a 74% hike in profits.

The family-owned firm, which has branches in Kilwinning, Irvine, Ayr and Kilmarnock, has booked earnings of £618,114 before tax for the year ended March 31, 2013, accounts recently filed at Companies House show.

The profit rise, on turnover up to £14.8 million from £13.6m, comes after Bridgend had sustained a 36.2% fall in pre-tax profits to £355,000 in the 12 months to the end of March 2012.

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Writing in the accounts, directors Alexander and Daniel McLaughlan said the firm had continued to perform positively in spite of a "very difficult economic environment".

The directors, whose father Hugh established Bridgend as a road haulage business in 1930, said: "The measures taken by the directors to sustain the group during the recession with careful management and strategic buying have resulted in increased profitability.

"The group continues to have a strong financial position, as the carefully considered growth, without the need to resort to external funding of any significance, leaves the group well positioned to adjust to economic conditions as they arrive and stronger financially than many of its competitors."

The directors highlighted the strength of the company's balance sheet by noting that net assets stood at £10m at the time the accounts were filed.

They also noted the market value of the land held by the business "exceeds the book value as shown in fixed assets", booked at £5.75m in the accounts, although they point out that "there has been no recent valuation of all company properties to establish the current market value".

The directors said: "In line with all new and used car dealers, the current economic climate presents a challenging trading environment.

"Although trading conditions continue to be difficult, the directors are confident that the group's historic strong trading record has allowed the business to survive the worst of the economic downturn.

"The group is still exposed to general economic uncertainty and should there be further recession then it is still exposed to the risk of further downward pressure exerted on the new and used car market.

"The group is also exposed to the continued consolidation of the insurance market for vehicle repair.

"In both areas of its business the group is felt to be well positioned in comparison to many of its competitors."

Bridgend employed an average of 108 staff over the year, compared with 119 the year before, and saw staff costs remain broadly static at £2.68m.

Since year end the company has acquired Bickets Motor Group in Kilmarnock.

Daniel McLaughlan said: "Although difficult trading conditions continued, we are pleased to maintain satisfactory profitability and have had the confidence in our business model to invest in the purchase of the five motor trade sites in Kilmarnock previously owned by the Bickets Motor Group. This gives us the desired position of serving Ayrshire motorists in all three regions and securing more jobs for Ayrshire."