Live­stock cen­tre

The Oban Times - - Front Page - SANDY NEIL sneil@oban­

THE di­rec­tors of Oban Live­stock Cen­tre have agreed to ap­point United Auc­tions to take over the run­ning of the mart at Up­per Soroba.

UNITED Auc­tions will re­place Cale­do­nian Marts in run­ning Oban Live­stock Cen­tre, share­hold­ers de­cided at their AGM in the Up­per Soroba mart on Tues­day.

Oban Live­stock Cen­tre (OLC), a co-op­er­a­tive, has been op­er­ated by Cale­do­nian Marts of Stir­ling since 1996, but ear­lier this year OLC’s di­rec­tors put the run­ning of the busi­ness up for ten­der.

They at­tracted bids from five auc­tion com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing one from Cale­do­nian Marts to stay, but they unan­i­mously chose United Auc­tions (UA) as the pre­ferred bid­der, ahead of run­ners-up Long­town-based C and D Auc­tion Marts.

UA, which cur­rently runs live­stock mar­kets in Dal­mally, Tiree, Is­lay, South Uist, Stir­ling, Huntly, and Lairg, changed own­er­ship in Fe­bru­ary to a con­sor­tium of Don­ald Young, Christo­pher Sharp, Ge­orge Purves, and John Roberts.

OLC chair­man Dun­can Buchanan ex­plained: ‘With de­creas­ing stock num­bers and Brexit loom­ing, it was time to put it to ten­der. We are look­ing to in­crease the through-put in Oban. OLC is mak­ing profit, but we want to make its profit se­cure. UA would be a safer bet.’

OLC board mem­ber Neil McCorkin­dale said some were dis­sat­is­fied with Cale­do­nian Marts. ‘We were hear­ing rum­bling of low stock num­bers and high com­mis­sion rates. We all de­cided UA should take OLC for­ward.

‘Is there enough live­stock to keep two auc­tion com­pa­nies in the West of Scot­land? Invit­ing a new com­pany is cut­ting the cake an­other way. UA run most is­land auc­tions. They are not the com­pany that sold OLC out 20 years ago.’

The de­ci­sion would be con­tro­ver­sial, he ex­plained, af­ter UA re­port­edly ‘back-tracked’ on its of­fer to as­sist in build­ing Oban’s live­stock mar­ket two decades ago. ‘To spite them, we raised money to build our own mar­ket,’ he said. ‘It has been a huge suc­cess. A lot of water has gone un­der the bridge. We are con­fi­dent this will se­cure OLC for the fu­ture.’

Share­hold­ers met to make the fi­nal de­ci­sion at the OLC’s AGM on Tues­day May 30. One be­gan by say­ing OLC was ‘a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion’, since Dal­mally was 25 miles closer to Stir­ling at ‘the cen­tre of things’.

If sell­ers and buy­ers did not ma­te­ri­alise, Mr Buchanan said, ‘five years down the line we will have two more com­pa­nies in­ter­ested’.

An­other asked if UA guar­an­teed it would still be the op­er­a­tor in five years. ‘Yes,’ replied Mr Buchanan, adding: ‘They can­not sell the mar­ket: it is our mar­ket.’

Don­ald Young, a UA di­rec­tor and owner, gave a short pre­sen­ta­tion. ‘We are not go­ing to run away in two years or 10 years,’ he said. ‘We are look­ing to be here in 20. As long as you want us, we want you.’

Com­mis­sion rates at Oban, Dal­mally and the is­lands would be 4.5 per cent, he stated, com­pared to 3.75 per cent at Stir­ling and Huntly. Re­spond­ing to con­cerns over a lack of com­pe­ti­tion, he added: ‘What we want is com­pe­ti­tion around that ring. We want to get the stock in the sales, and get the buy­ers to the sales, to get you the prices you need.’

Mr Buchanan asked for agree­ment, or a vote for UA ver­sus ‘an­other op­er­a­tor’, telling one share­holder: ‘If you want an­other op­er­a­tor, the board will have to stand down. You will have to speak to them your­self. Our di­rec­tors were ap­pointed to di­rect.’

Other bid­ders were not in­vited to speak, he re­vealed: ‘They dis­closed in­for­ma­tion to us they did not want in the pub­lic do­main.’

An­other share­holder said: ‘I do not ap­prove of UA. If that is the di­rec­tors’ de­ci­sion, that is fine by me. But we will be watch­ing UA.’

OLC di­rec­tor Ed­ward Gully ap­pealed: ‘ We have to thank Cale­do­nian Marts. We made the right de­ci­sion 20 years ago. This is not the time to start to gam­ble with our mar­ket. We are go­ing into un­cer­tain times. [This] will lead to big­ger through-put, and bet­ter sales.’

Left to right: OLC chair­man Dun­can Buchanan, sec­re­tary John Mac­Gre­gor, di­rec­tors Ed­ward Gully, John Carmichael, Caro­line Ron­ald and Hugh MacPhail, and United Auc­tions’ group sales di­rec­tor Don­ald Young and ad­min­is­tra­tion di­rec­tor Christo­pher Sharp.

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