9 November 2001

Bitter row over Stirling future

UNITED Auctions and Caledonian Marts have entered into a bitter exchange of words over the future of their auction sites in Stirling.

Both organisations run live markets in Stirling from different locations and some rationalisation is reportedly on the cards.

David Danson, chief executive of United Auctions, told farmers weekly that UA was in a healthy position having survived the worst of the foot-and-mouth crisis and was ready to negotiate.

But a report in last weeks Scottish Press suggested that Caledonian was less keen on the idea of both firms entering into partnership on one site.

Its general manager John Broadfoot said there were an equal number of supporters for Caledonian continuing to run its own site as there were for a joint venture.

"If there was a requirement from our customers to go into a joint venture, I think there would be other options, rather than UA, that we would look at first."

In the past two years, Caledonian has sustained pre-tax losses of £60,000, but Mr Broadfoot said the auctioneer was on a sound financial footing.

He said UA had suffered bigger losses than Caledonian, which had built up a good store cattle trade since the onset of F&M. And there could be other opportunities ahead.

"We have been approached by a number of developers and we are talking to them. If an attractive offer was made we would sell the site, but our directors have stressed we would relocate within Stirling."

Two auction companies had served the town well, said Mr Broadfoot. "There is a competitive edge here and stock come from far afield to be sold."

Mr Danson responded: "UAs door remains open. Sooner or later we should talk. There are no taboos for us about what we can and what we cant talk about."

UA recently released its interim results, which saw a loss of £0.5m for the period covering the full six months of F&M. But Mr Danson believed better times were ahead for the company.

"Next year looks far better for our livestock division than this. We might not return to making £0.5m as in the year before, but we have reorganised our business." &#42