Maxi picks up work from failed rivals to fight off recession

SCOTTISH haulage and construction firm Maxi Group managed to raise turnover by 15 per cent last year despite strong economic headwinds as it picked up business from competitors that went bust in the recession.

Chairman Gerry Atkinson admitted his family’s company was operating in the most challenging market conditions he had ever experienced.

But he said the haulage division, which offers a “complete logistics service” to customers, had retained all its existing contracts and picked up business from gaps left in the market by failed rivals.

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He said the Irvine-based firm had also picked up substantial business in Ireland, where the fierce recession left many companies looking for savings.

That helped group turnover reach £47.8 million in the 12 months to 30 September, up from £41.4m the year before. Pre-tax profits were up just 3.2 per cent at £3.4m as higher fuel costs ate into margins.

Atkinson said the construction business, which was scaled back dramatically following the financial crisis as demand for commercial buildings dried up, continued to operate at about half its pre-recession level but remained profitable.

“My background is in construction and I’ve been through a lot of recessions before, but never anything like this,” he said. “All areas are down over an extended period.

“We have cut our cloth accordingly and are bumping along the bottom.”

He said the firm refused to get involved in unprofitable work – while some rivals in the sector have preferred to tender for contracts at cost or even below to retain their scale and workforce.

Work from the public sector, such as building schools and fire stations, kept the construction arm going but Atkinson said there was still no sign of a pick up in commercial work.

Instead the group is looking to its haulage and warehousing operations to generate growth, and recently spent £3.8m on new trucks and trailers. Atkinson said the firm has already pencilled in a further £1m investment and will probably spend more in the current year.