One of Scotland's leading livestock auctioneering businesses, the ANM Group, has recorded a trading profit and returned cash to its members in a 'difficult trading environment.'

Ahead of its agm next Tuesday (April 16), figures have been released which show a trading profit for the year ended December 31, 2018, of £498,000 – which is £74,000 short of last year's figures. However, there has been a record shareholder investment of £6.5m – up by more than £0.5m – and member benefits accrued to £477,000.

Like most auction marts last year, ANM's livestock division was hit by uncertainty and volatility created first by the Beast from the East, and then a long, hot dry summer which hit stock values due to a lack of keep.

However, the group's chairman, Peter Watson, said: "The auction system continues to prove itself time and again, and that's especially so in a challenging market like last year."

This coming busy sales seasons of spring and autumn will also seen the new AWPR ring-road around Aberdeen delivering full benefit to the business, he said. ANM now has an auctioneer based in Montrose and the new road system will be a big draw for sellers from that area and, indeed, for those transporting stock away from the area south.

The AWPR also gave an added filip to ANM's accounts due to the number of valuation undertaken during its construction and finishing period.

The group's new Thainstone Business Park plans are also beginning to take shape and one of the central parts of that, the construction of the new joint venture with Scotbeef to build an abattoir, has now cleared most of its planning hurdles. ANM's chief executive, Grant Rogerson, said he expected the facility to be ready for summer 2020 and that will allow for the redevelopment of the former slaughterhouse site in Inverurie to go ahead, including new housing.

The new business park has also cut into the firm's lairage capability – which is requires for the huge trade in Orkney and Shetland cattle – and so it has acquired a 40-acre site nearby to maintain that.

Digging in to the annual report shows that the members benefits through the year included member dividends of £143,000; stocking agreements which saved them a total of £131,000 in interest; commission cap savings of £156,000 and member's loan enhanced interest rates valued at £47,000.

The group's 'stock-on' agreements and new entrants scheme supported 240 farmers with a total of £6.9m of livestock financed by the group.

Despite the tough trading in the livestock division, the specialist auction business, which sells mainly machinery, was another star turn for the year end accounts as was the estates division, which sold more than £20m-worth of rural property.

However, the group pension fund remains a bit of millstone, and a new investment strategy is beginning to tackle the £6.2m deficit. It is targeted at clearing this 'debt' by 2031 – or at least taking it to a 'more manageable level.'