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Scottish groups on the comeback

AM100 Scottish dealer groups Eastern Western and John Martin Group have bounced back from trading at a loss.

Both companies were forced to undertake reviews and restructures following poor trading results in 2005. But their accounts for 2006, filed this month, show their performances have improved significantly.

Premium-brand specialist Eastern Western achieved a £4.5m swing in performance, turning its £2.5m pre-tax loss on ordinary activities from 2005 into a £2m profit last year. Operating profit was up to £5.7m, against £1.35m in 2005. Turnover grew from £305m to £307.7m.

John Martin Group, which has dealerships under the Murray and Belmont brands in addition to bodyshops branded JM Accident Repair Centre, has cut the £3.2m pre-tax loss on ordinary activities it reported in 2005, to £29,000 in 2006. Operating profit swung from a £1.64m loss to a £954,000 profit. Turnover has reduced to £215m from £237m.

Gordon Nisbet, managing director of John Martin Group, said: “We feel fit for the future. We are now at the size we want to be, have good relationships with our manufacturers and are happy with the way things are going.”

An industry analyst told AM that John Martin Group’s sale of sites away from its Aberdeen and Edinburgh heartland would pay dividends in its next financial results, which should show a 2% return.

Eastern Western declined to comment on its results. However its report at Companies House stated the directors are confident of increased levels of profitability in the future “from a more stable platform”.

Last year it opened large Mercedes-Benz and Lexus dealerships in Newbridge which are having “positive impacts” on profitability.

It closed one of its four Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicle operations in central Scotland. The analyst said: “Eastern Western is going in the right direction, but it’s only making 0.6% return on sales and it ought to be more. It should be the Arnold Clark of the prestige sector.”

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