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Bristol Street wants to buy Lex Autosales

Bristol Street Holdings, the multi-franchised group which owns the Motor Nation used car supermarkets, has emerged as a possible buyer of Lex Autosales.

Other companies believed to be taking an interest include Reg Vardy and Sanderson Bramall.

Lex Service announced plans last week to sell its remaining seven Autosales stores. An eighth outlet, at Maidenhead, closed on October 1 after a management review found the site to be "unviable".

At the time, a press statement claimed there were "no plans for further closures". It said the Maidenhead closure was "the final part of a strategy that has transformed the shape of the business".

A Lex Services spokeswoman said the "sudden decision" to sell the business was made because "Autosales didn't sit well with the future direction of the RAC".

She added: "Lex will be concentrating on individual motorist services. These include learning with BSM, insurance, servicing, traffic information and route maps. "We don't need to sell the car to offer related services." Other growth opportunities include the internet - "the RAC is doing a lot of business through its website" - and telematics, though Lex's joint venture with Trafficmaster.

The spokeswoman confirmed Lex had received several enquiries for individual sites, though it would prefer a single buyer for the whole network. Unsold sites would close by the end of the year.

Paul Williams, Bristol Street joint chief executive, said he was "looking at the business". The group, which has Motor Nation sites in Birmingham and Widnes, Cheshire, has often talked about expanding the business, but has been cautious about moving too fast.

Autosales retailed around 10,000 cars last year, but was losing money. Lex chief executive Andy Harrison said the losses - believed to be between £1m and £2m a year - were "unacceptable".

Lex owns the freehold on most of the sites and analysts believe fixed costs were too high to sustain profits in the current market.

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