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UK's biggest pawnbroker shines in gloom

Albemarle & Bond reported soaring demand for its pawnbroking and gold buying business yesterday as it attracts new customers looking to free up cash in the economic gloom.

Albemarle, which is Britain's biggest pawnbroker with 148 stores, including the Cheque and Pawn and Herbert Brown brands, said the value of items in its pledge book rose by 32 per cent in the final six months of 2010. Its gold buying and selling business, which operates an additional 38 small shops, handled double the value of goods compared to a year ago.

Although revenues rose 24 per cent to £48.8m in the half-year, profits were down 1 per cent to £11m after it paid to open 16 shops and 23 gold buying outlets.