Buccleuch sees profits surge past £23m after boost from rural land sales

Buccleuch, one of Scotland’s largest property owners, has seen earnings surge on the back of strong sales activity as it refocuses its portfolio.
The group has invested in property assets including Dalkeith Country Park.The group has invested in property assets including Dalkeith Country Park.
The group has invested in property assets including Dalkeith Country Park.

The company’s MDS Estates parent firm posted overall post-tax profits of £23.2 million in the year to 31 October, representing a jump of more than 300 per cent from £5.2m in the previous year.

Executive chairman Benny Higgins attributed “a very significant part” of the rise in profits to property revaluations and boosts upon the sale of assets, rather than underlying operational performance, as it has pushed ahead with a commitment to reducing its geographical footprint.

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Turnover climbed to £54.2m, up from £36.7m in the previous 12 months.

In September the group announced the sale of a 9,000-acre estate at Canonbie in Dumfries and Galloway, which was expected to generate more than £19m. It has continued the move to reduce its rural footprint, announcing in May its intention to sell around 25,000 acres of land in south-west Scotland, including Langholm Moor.

The group has unveiled a string of urban property acquisitions in the current financial year, most recently boosting its commercial portfolio with the purchase of a £12.5m site in Newcastle upon Tyne.

It also forecast a future revenue boost from an “increasing shift” to working within joint agriculture ventures, as well as an expected rise in timber prices which should benefit its forestry arm.

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Buccleuch invested in its commercial property interests throughout the year, including adding to its customer experience offering at Dalkeith Country Park, and actively farms 159,000 acres across its four estates, at Bowhill, Queensberry, Dalkeith and Langholm.

Higgins, former chief of Tesco Bank, succeeded the Duke of Buccleuch as chair in March, after spending six years as a non-executive director at the group. The Duke’s elder son, the Earl of Dalkeith, took up the position of deputy chairman.

Higgins said: “We find ourselves on the cusp of an exciting period of change for Buccleuch. Within the commercial property sector, the commercial and residential markets have had a positive year, with record levels of investment and sustained growth in rental and capital values which were better than predicted.

“Brexit continues to cause uncertainty across all the sectors in which Buccleuch operates, although the true impact will not be known for a few years.

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“We will continue to plan our various land uses, from forestry and farming, to hospitality and renewable energy, with a clear focus on economic, environmental and community considerations. In doing so, we will continue to review and shrink the footprint of Buccleuch, which, together with new projects and other investments will allow the business to maintain a surer footing.”