THE owner of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre has signalled it is on course for a record performance thanks to the success of The Hydro venue.

Scottish Exhibition Centre Limited, which is around 91 per cent owned by Glasgow City Council, saw underlying revenue surge 16 per cent from £20.05 million to £23.3m.

The growth in turnover came in spite of a dip in conference business in the 12 months to March 31 with the number of events down 16 per cent to 59. Exhibitions also fell from 36 to 33 with revenue in that category falling from £2.71m to £2.59m.

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The concerts and events business saw a 33 per cent rise in visitors to almost 1.3 million with the Hydro attracting more than 622,000 people with concerts by the likes of Rod Stewart, Arctic Monkeys, Prince and Dolly Parton.

Chief executive Peter Duthie said: "The bulk of the turnover growth is due to the Hydro. The promoters love it as it sells tickets. The interesting thing is people are looking to see what is on at The Hydro rather than the thing being artist-driven."

SEC Ltd saw its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation from recurring operations grow from £1.2m to £1.8m.

The business had expected to see a reversal in earnings as it had budgeted for a major uplift in operating costs but would only book revenue from the Hydro for the period between it opening in September last year to the end of the financial year on March 31.

While SEC Ltd recorded a pre-tax profit in the previous year of £1.4m that figure included a one-off gain of about £1.1m which was related to a car park that had been built at the site which was then sold to Canada Life.

For the most recent financial year the pre-tax profit was just £61,409.

However chairman Will Whitehorn said that was better than anticipated as the business had expected to be about break-even in the financial year just past. He said: "The numbers don't actually really reflect The Hydro. We hadn't actually planned we would do better than break even this year. The business has actually performed much better than expected given there were big costs and big disruption associated with the opening of The Hydro."

Mr Whitehorn said the current trading year will see record profits. SEC Ltd previously booked pre-tax profits of £2.2m for an 18-month period to March 31, 2005, which would give a pro-rata annual profit of around £1.5m. Mr Whitehorn said: "This year we are now in I think we will make the biggest profit this company has ever made in its entire history. It will be in the millions."

According to Mr Whitehorn The Hydro is also bringing in a wide range of people from outside Glasgow.

He said: "Something like Top Gear Live then the car park was full of German, Dutch and French cars and lots of people came up from England."

Mr Duthie said: "People in north of England are now choosing to come here to see an artist than going to Birmingham or London."

SEC said the net additional spending its venues were estimated to have brought into Scotland in the financial year was £378m, up from £357m.

SEC has halved its number of call centre ticketing staff to 12 as more and more people buy online. Mr Duthie said the company will still retain a box office although its TicketSoup brand is being phased out.