Competition authorities to investigate $1bn merger of auction house Tyrone

A billion-dollar sale of a Co Tyrone auction house to a major global asset management company in Vancouver could be blocked by competition authorities, we have learned.

Last August, Gardrum Holdings, the group behind Euro Auctions, agreed to sell its wildly successful global machinery auction business to Canadian firm Ritchie Bros for £775 million ($1.08 billion). dollars).

But the Competition and Markets Authority confirmed yesterday that it was stepping up its investigation into the merger of two equally dominant construction machinery auction houses.

The acquisition of Euro Auctions by Ritchie Bros gives the Canadian firm more than 90% of the UK construction machinery auction market, the competition watchdog has found.

And the CMA has decided, on the basis of the information currently available to it, that the concentration can be expected to lead to a substantial lessening of competition in one or more markets in the United Kingdom.

In a statement, he said. “This merger will be fully investigated unless Ritchie Bros Auctioneers Incorporated offers acceptable undertakings to resolve these competition concerns.”

And Ritchie Bros. has just until Friday to come up with a proposal that might satisfy the CMA or it will send the acquisition to a phase two investigation.

The CMA assessed whether the market in question should also be considered to include transport and agriculture, but found that they were sufficiently distinct markets.

Euro Auctions was founded in 1998 by Dromore man Derek Keys and his brothers.

With operations across Europe, the United States, Dubai and Australia, it has become one of the most profitable businesses in the north.

Indeed, in the year to December 2020, revenue rose 1% to £145.6m, while pre-tax profits climbed 14% to £28.7m. pound sterling.

Alongside its auction operation, Gardrum Holdings includes a number of property companies, and the value of its investment properties is worth more than £30 million.

When launched, Euro Auctions – now with over 200 employees – introduced one-day, American-style heavy equipment auctions with on-site and online bidding under the Euro Auctions and Yoder & Frey.

In 2020 it held 60 auctions, selling 90,000 items for £484m across its nine locations, including Tyrone.