Patient progress

Lower steel prices and land sales hit Murray Capital

David D Murray
David Murray: Reflecting on a solid rather than a spectacular year

A fall in steel prices and slow land sales led to a sharp drop in pre-tax profits at Murray Capital, the family-owned property, metals and wine importing business.  

Profits for the year to the end of June came in at £4.1 million compared to £12.8m in the previous period when steel prices shot up on the back of a post-pandemic surge in demand and a disruption to supplies caused by the war in Ukraine.

Shareholders’ funds grew by 5% year-on-year to £46.2m from £43.9m and net cash decreased to £6.1m from £7.2m. 

Turnover for the group from continued operations totalled £84.3m during the year, down 4% on the previous year’s £87.5m.

The group made both new and follow-on investments to support its diverse portfolio of businesses.

The largest single investment in the year was the acquisition of a property on Rutland Street, in the west end of Edinburgh. Once its refurbishment is complete next year, it will be the new head office for Murray Capital, which has been based in nearby Charlotte Square for 25 years. 

In April, Murray Capital sold its stake in one of Scotland’s leading independent financial advisory firms, Argyle Consulting, to the management team. In June, the group also sold its share of Murray Energy PTE, a Singapore-based supplier of steel products to the Asian market, to its management. 

Murray Capital is wholly owned by the Murray family and now run by the second generation, Sir David Murray having handed the reins to his sons, David and Keith, in March 2021.  

David Murray, managing director of Murray Capital, said: “Last year was a solid performance, rather than a spectacular one, but in the macro environment we’ve been operating in, I think it’s reasonable to consider that a success.  

“I’m pleased to see the respective management teams of our Asian steels business and Argyle Consulting taking those businesses forward and I will continue to track their progress with interest.

“We held a stake in Argyle for 20 years and exited at a decent return on our original investment. Selling our stake in the Singapore firm allows us to focus more of our efforts on our UK steels businesses, which are still performing well. 

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An update on the proposed Edinburgh Garden District at Gorgarburn is due next year

“The current financial year has started positively, albeit trading is behind the last couple of years. We will continue to take a long-term and patient view of our various investments, which we believe will be necessary as the effects of the cost of money increases and higher inflation start to take real effect. 

“Progress in the Murray Estates portfolio has not been as quick as we would have liked, but we are not immune to the slowing down of the housing market, due to increasing interest and mortgage rates as well as inflated construction costs.  

“I was encouraged to hear the Scottish Government’s housing minister, Paul McLennan, recently identify the west of Edinburgh as a key strategic location for new housing that will help address the critical shortage in provision we face as a city and a country.  

“Edinburgh Council’s ‘Towards West Edinburgh 2050’ strategy would appear to be a very positive development in that context too, as we have more than 500 acres of land in western Edinburgh that should be material in the city’s expansion in the coming years.

“That includes 23 acres at the International Business Gateway site beside the airport, our plans for which – including 200 apartments – were approved by the council but called in for review by the Scottish Government in 2019. Nearly five years on, we are still awaiting a final decision.  

“More positively, we are now in exclusive negotiations with a housing developer for our Edinburgh Garden District development, having secured final outline planning approval in 2022 for 1,350 homes – including family and affordable accommodation – a primary school, commercial retail centre and supporting infrastructure. Hopefully, we’ll have more to say on that site in the early part of next year.” 

Murray Capital continues to provide support to The Murray Foundation, with a percentage of profits directed to the family’s foundation each year to fund support for several different local charities in a time of great need. Supporting the foundation is becoming an increasing focus for the business. 

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