Caledonian Marts

The future of Stirling’s struggling Caledonian Marts will be decided by the end of this week, its acting managing director James Cullens has confirmed.

The board of the Central Belt farmers co-operative has to decide whether enough new funds have been pledged by shareholders to allow it to continue as a going concern – or, if they need to sell the market and its 5.7ha site to a competitor.

United Auctions, which is also based in Stirling, has already confirmed it has registered an interest in the mart and has entered into a confidentiality agreement.

See also: Caledonian Marts seeks to raise £2m from members

Caledonian Marts annual accounts showed a multimillion-pound loss in the year to May 2014. In a letter to shareholders in December Mr Cullens revealed that almost £4m of the £5.9m owed by debtors had been deemed unrecoverable.

At a special general meeting in January, shareholders voted overwhelmingly to attempt to raise capital through new investor shares to allow them to maintain the independence of the 52-year-old business, which draws stock from across Scotland.

The share prospectus closed last week and Mr Cullens told Farmers Weekly that the response had been “great”.  However, he declined to reveal how much had been pledged and conceded that raising £4m of new capital was a “big ask”.

“We had a board meeting at the end of last week and we are spending the next three or four days analysing the situation and deciding what will be best for members, shareholders and customers,” said Mr Cullens.

“We have been encouraged by the response to the share offer and also the interest in the business and the prospect of selling.

“The feedback from customers is that in an ideal scenario they want us to remain independent. In the meantime it is business as usual.”

Meanwhile, United Auctions (UA) said it was currently preparing “for all eventualities”.

UA group joint managing director Robin Tough said: “We have reviewed our sales calendar to allow back end sheep sales being held on Mondays with cattle-only sales on Wednesdays that will incorporate a prime cattle sale.”