30 June 1995

Merger is path for high-tech auctions

TWO of Britains biggest livestock auction companies, Midland Marts Group and ANM Group, have merged their high-tech interests to create a major force in satellite and electronic auctions.

The joint company, AgVision Ltd, combines Satellite Livestock Auction Marketing (SLAM) and Electronic Auction Systems Europe Ltd (EASE) and will be launched at next weeks Royal Show.

Electronic systems currently handle about 6% of finished cattle sales and 15% of sheep, but the two parent companies are confident that AgVision will push ahead with its £50m combined annual turnover.

Working through a network of agents rather than fixed centre franchises, the new company will offer a range of options to farmers.

"We expect the electronic side of the business to handle most of the finished stock where the emphasis is on weight and classification. Satellite selling comes into its own for store stock and pedigree animals where buyers rely much more on a visual assessment," said Brian Pack, chief executive of ANM, announcing the joint venture this week.

Ian Smethurst, a director of Midland Marts, explained that they would be using a different satellite and would no longer require a dedicated receiver dish. "Our new supplier will be offering a £300 package that will give the buyer Sky TV as well as AgVision," he said.

Bidding is by telephone to a sales team member who makes the bid on screen, with a video of the animals being shown at the same time.

The electronic auction relies on the simpler technology of an IBM-compatible computer and a modem telephone link.

AgVision claims to offer the excitement of a live auction without stock or people leaving the farm or office; the advantages of deadweight trading combined with the benefits of competitive selling; the welfare advantages of animals making fewer journeys; and quality assurance and traceability.

Electronic selling will involve commission at 2% to 2.5% while satellite auctions will charge between 2.5 and 3%. &#42