CUMBRIAN livestock auction mart owner H&H Group plc saw profits rise by almost 50 per cent in the last six months of 2013.

The company, which operates seven marts through Harrison and Hetherington, posted pre-tax profts of £822,000 – 48 per cent up on the same period in 2012 and the second highest profit in company history.

The group, which also has property, financial services and printing businesses, including a specialist print firm at Milnthorpe, reported sales of £7.4 million.

In Cumbria, it operates the flagship Borderway livestock mart in Carlisle as well as auction sites at Kirkby Stephen and Broughton-in-Furness.

In a statement, it said the livestock business was ‘continuing to perform strongly’, benefitting from an increasing number of events.

Despite lower livestock prices across the industry, throughput stood at £65 million, around the same level as last year.

Directors also revealed they were continuing to look at developing Harrison and Hetherington’s market share in the auction mart sector.

Group chief executive Brian Richardson said: “It has been a good start to the financial year with all of our four sectors seeing an improvement on the year before.

“Undoubtedly, we have seen some improvement and return of confidence in the economy, but businesses remain cautious and all staff within the H&H Group have worked extremely hard to deliver this result.”

Directors announced an interim dividend of £8 per share for the period, the same as the previous year. It will be paid on May 2 to everyone on the share register on April 11, 2014.