North Tawton-based transport firm Gregory continues to eye acquisition opportunities
Transport giant Gregory will continue to use its strong balance sheet to take advantage of acquisition opportunities, its chief executive has said.
John Gregory said that although trading conditions remained "really tough" for the North Tawton-based distribution firm, it was ready to dip into its reserves to finance appropriate deals.
It was announced last week that the firm has acquired Sussex-based Philston Haulage for an undisclosed sum.
The transport firm, which specialises in distributing fresh produce, turns over £7 million and employs 56 people at its Chichester base.
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"We have got businesses in that part of the world. The location complemented our existing fridged operations to create greater density," said Mr Gregory.
The family-run business, which started trading in 1919, prides itself on a cautious approach to finance and has focused on building up its balance sheet.
"We purchased it (Philston) within our existing facilities," said Mr Gregory.
It's the second acquisition of the year for Gregory, after it bought a Somerset business – which Mr Gregory declined to name – in January.
With the transport sector facing rising fuel costs as well as pressure from customers to hold or reduce prices, Mr Gregory said that sterling's fall against the dollar was an added worry.
"It's not just governed by the cost of a barrel of oil. If the dollar is going against us, because oil is traded in dollars, then it's bad news for us," he said.
But despite the economic challenges, Mr Gregory said the business remained alert to further acquisition opportunities.
"We have got people talking to us all the time. Everyone in the transport industry has got their backs to the wall right now and some people want to find an exit and sometimes we can find a fit for them," he added.
Philston Haulage will continue to operate under its own livery and will be run by its co-founder Phil Dickinson.
"The opportunity to become part of a larger family-owned business will provide the resources and support that are necessary for us to continue to develop the business in a dynamic and service-driven marketplace. This is good news for our staff and customers," he said.
The combined turnover of the two firms is £125 million and the enlarged business employs 1,300 people at 18 locations.
Around half of Gregory's staff are based in Devon and Cornwall and its client list includes Milk Link, Coca-Cola, Cadbury, Norbord and The Range.