Bloodstock profits gallop ahead

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Profits at the British Bloodstock Agency, the racehorse broker, nearly doubled to pounds 302,000 in the year to March. Horse sales and prices have galloped ahead due to strong demand from Japan, the Middle East and an Irish syndicate.

"The Royal Family of Dubai, which owns and trains by far the largest number of horses in England and France has been a strong buyer. The Saudi Arabians are have been buying a lot and the Japanese remain very keen," the company's chairman, Major Christo Philipson, said yesterday. Buyers are being attracted by the recent surge in prize money available from international horse meetings.

The company acts as an agent, selling horses for clients around the world in return for a commission. Its biggest deal was the sale of Lammtarra, the 1995 Derby winner, which was purchased by a Japanese buyer for $30m (pounds 18m). British Bloodstock sold a record 237 horses at the Tattersalls auction, the main event of the horse trading calendar which is held at Newmarket. The average price of horses sold at Tattersalls rose by more than 50 per cent.

But Major Philipson warned that these sort of price rises are not sustainable. "The price of top horses rose sharply. But there should only be a steady increase in prices at the autumn auctions. Prices are unlikely to get carried away as they did in the late Eighties and early Nineties," said Major Philipson.

Meanwhile, British Bloodstock plans to take advantage of the strength of demand in the Far East by expanding its operation in China, Taiwan and Korea.

John Harvey-Barnes, finance director, is retiring this autumn after 19 years with the group. His successor, James Beazley, until recently worked with Prince Khalad, one of Saudia Arabia's largest horse trainers.

British Bloodstock increased its dividend payout by a quarter to 2p a share.