Stobart Group

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Stobart Group Ltd
Public limited company
Traded as LSESTOB
Industry Infrastructure and support services
Founded 2007
Headquarters Carlisle, Cumbria, England
Area served
Ireland, United Kingdom
Key people
Iain Ferguson
(Chairman)
Warwick Brady
(Chief Executive)
Revenue £129.4 million (2017)[1]
£27.0 million (2017)[1]
£9.2 million (2017)[1]
Divisions
  • Stobart Energy
  • Stobart Aviation
  • Stobart Rail
  • Stobart Investments
Subsidiaries
Stobart Holdings Ltd
Stobart Biomass Products Ltd
Stobart Rail Ltd
Stobart Airports Ltd
Stobart Air Ltd
London Southend Airport Company Ltd
Aer Arann UK Ltd
Stobart Estates Holdings Ltd
Stobart Properties Ltd
WADI Properties Ltd
Westbury Properties Ltd
Moneypenny Ltd
Stobart Group Brands LLP
Eddie Stobart Promotions Ltd
Stobart Barristers Ltd
Stobart Biomass Transport Ltd
Website www.stobartgroup.co.uk

Stobart Group Ltd (LSESTOB is a British infrastructure and support services company, with interests in energy, aviation and rail, through operations in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The company is registered in Guernsey but has its operational head office in Carlisle, Cumbria.

The group had its origins in the transport and logistics business run by Edward Stobart from 1976 to 2004. Trading as Eddie Stobart, he had inherited and expanded it from the agricultural business founded by his father "Steady" Eddie Stobart in the 1940s. It eventually grew to become one of the UK's most recognised brands. Following corporate restructurings in 2004 and 2007, the group became a public company and diversified into various other sectors, while retaining Stobart family members William Stobart (Edward's brother) and his brother in-law Andrew Tinkler in the management roles of COO and CEO respectively. After boardroom changes in 2013, in 2014 a 51% stake in its original transport business was sold, becoming Eddie Stobart Logistics with William Stobart as its CEO . The Group retained the rights to the brand Eddie Stobart, licensing it out to the new company. With Andrew Tinkler remaining CEO at Stobart Group, it re-positioned itself around its remaining interests, as a services company.

The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is constituent of the FTSE 250 Index. However, unlike most UK public companies, Stobart Group retains its "Ltd" status as it is incorporated in Guernsey and not England & Wales or Scotland, which would require it to change its suffix to "plc" status.

History[edit]

Early history[edit]

A Subaru Impreza with Stobart advertising

The business was started by Eddie Stobart in the late 1940s as an agricultural business in Cumbria. His son, Edward Stobart Junior, was born in Cumberland in England on 21 November 1954 at his parents' house just outside Hesket Newmarket near Carlisle. He was one of four children, with an elder sister Anne, an elder brother John and a younger brother William. He was always called Edward to avoid confusion with his father Eddie. He was very interested in lorries, and when he left school, he started working for his father's contracting business delivering agricultural material in the region. The first truck bought by Eddie Stobart in 1960 was painted post-office red and Brunswick green with yellow lettering. These colours were used for subsequent vehicles up to 1969. Eddie Stobart controlled the organisation fully until 1973, when, at the age of 19, Edward Stobart took the place of CEO. In 1976, Eddie retired and Edward took full control of the road haulage business and the name Eddie Stobart Ltd in 1976, becoming Chairman.[2]

By 1985 Edward Stobart owned 26 vehicles but he would still personally wash the trucks.[3] A lot of hard work, never declining an order, and a virtual paranoia about keeping his lorries, characterised by their Tautliner bodies, immaculately clean eventually paid off, and Edward started to get orders from larger businesses. One of the key success factors for the company was its specific emphasis on building a strong reputation and corporate image. For example, in the 1980s and 1990s, if any driver was caught not wearing a tie while on duty, he or she could face disciplinary action. Similarly, the company had a policy that all drivers must wave back and honk their horn in the traditional truck-driver fashion when signalled by a passer-by or "Eddie spotter" to do so.[4]

As well as a new management team in 1986, another key element in its growth at this time was the opening, on 1 April 1987, of its first depot in the English Midlands (at Burnaston).[5]

By 2002 the company was experiencing financial difficulties caused by the fuel crisis. In 2001 the haulage business had posted its first loss,[6] with the fan club making more money than the haulage business.[6]

On 15 October 2003 it was announced that Eddie Stobart was to be sold to WA Developments, a civil engineering company that specialised in railway maintenance, based in Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria. At the time, Eddie Stobart was 55% owned by Edward Stobart and 45% owned by his brother William. WA Developments was 27% owned by William and 73% owned by William's school friend, brother-in-law and business partner Andrew Tinkler. In effect, therefore, William Stobart's stake in Eddie Stobart reduced from 45% to 27%.[7]

Public listing and further restructuring[edit]

The Stobart Group was created on 15 August 2007 when the Eddie Stobart Logistics business gained a stock market listing through the reverse acquisition of the Westbury Property Fund Ltd, a commercial property and ports company. Westbury acquired the ultimate Eddie Stobart Ltd. holding company, Stobart Holdings Ltd., from W.A. Developments International Ltd. for £137.7 million: £62 million in cash and £76 million in new Westbury Property Fund shares. The renamed Westbury group then became the London Stock Exchange listed Stobart Group Ltd., with Andrew Tinkler and William Stobart becoming substantial shareholders holding 20% and 8.5% respectively of the Stobart Group.[8][9]

On 10 March 2008 the Stobart Group acquired W. A. Developments Ltd. from W. A. Developments International Ltd., for £15 million (£2.5 million in cash and £12.5 million in new Stobart Group shares).[10] On 21 April 2011, the Stobart Group announced a Placing and Open Offer (similar to a rights issue) of 77,339,766 new ordinary shares in the Stobart Group at 155p each to raise net proceeds of £114.9 million to achieve its growth plans.[11]

Boardroom coup and counter-coup[edit]

In January 2013, following an under-performing share price, Stobart Group's largest shareholder, Invesco, initiated a number of boardroom changes. The Non-Executive Chairman, Rodney Baker-Bates, was demoted to become a Non-Executive Director, whilst Avril Palmer-Baunack, the former Chief Executive of Autologic and now Deputy Chief Executive of Stobart Group, was promoted to become Executive Chairman. Her remit was to sell off under-performing parts of the business.[12]

However, disagreements started with Andrew Tinkler and William Stobart, who held 12.6% of the Stobart Group at the time, over what could be classified as an "under-performing asset". Their view was that there were no under-performing assets in the Stobart Group whatsoever. In April 2013, Stobart Group announced that Avril Palmer-Baunack would be leaving the Group in the next month. In October 2013, Stobart Group appointed Iain Ferguson CBE as its new independent Non-Executive Chairman.[13]

Partial realisation of Transport and Distribution Division[edit]

In March 2014, Stobart Group announced its intention to re-position itself as an Infrastructure and Support Services business, with the announcement of the sale of its original Transport and Distribution business to Douglas Bay Capital for £280.8 million: £195.6 million in cash and £44.1 million in shares (and therefore a 49% stake) of the new Eddie Stobart Logistics business. The deal enabled Stobart Group to pay back almost all of its debt, conduct a £35 million share buy-back and invest £55 million into its new division Stobart Green Energy. At the same time William Stobart left his position as Chief Operating Officer of the Stobart Group to become Executive Chairman of Eddie Stobart Logistics.[14]

Headquarters[edit]

Following growth, the company had previously been looking to move from its long standing Carlisle base and was considering a relocation further down the M6 motorway to Warrington. These plans were rejected in 2006 due to potential job losses in Carlisle.[6]

Financial performance[edit]

Figures below show the recent results for the Group; the financial year runs to the last day of February each year:[1][15]

Period ended Turnover (£m) Profit before tax (£m) Dividend per share (p) Adjusted earnings per share diluted (p)
28 February 2017 129.4 (8.0) (2.67) (2.67)
29 February 2016 126.7 10.0 2.68 2.68
28 February 2015 116.6 (9.4) (2.43) (2.43)
28 February 2014 99.2 (10.2) (3.06) (3.06)
28 February 2013 572.4 36.0 6.0 8.98
29 February 2012 551.92 30.55 6.0 8.97
28 February 2011 500.39 29.47 6.0 9.02
28 February 2010 447.66 33.29 12.0 11.58
28 February 2009 431.06 29.72 6.0 (4.07)
29 February 2008 (14 months) 108.84 3.52 8.3 (22.92)
31 December 2006 0.42 (1.12) 6.0 58.29
31 December 2005 7.59 13.70 6.0 26.48
31 December 2004 5.43 7.56 8.0 54.04

Operations[edit]

Stobart Energy[edit]

On 24 March 2010, the Stobart Group announced the purchase of 50% of A. W. Jenkinson Biomass Ltd, from A. W. Jenkinson Forest Products, for £30 million, as an equal mix of cash and shares. A. W. Jenkinson Biomass Ltd was then renamed Stobart Biomass Products Ltd. Stobart Biomass transports sustainable wood products for use in low-carbon emission power plants, producing electricity at both large and small scale power plants, including for export.[16] The Stobart Group also announced it was buying the remaining 50% of Stobart Biomass Products it did not already own for £20 million.[17]

Stobart Aviation[edit]

Carlisle Lake District Airport[edit]

In 2006, Stobart had also been considering expanding into the air freight business. On 7 April 2006 Haughey Airports Ltd – the company which operated Carlisle Airport – was acquired by Eddie Stobart's parent company WA Developments, through a subsidiary company Stobart Air Holdings Ltd. Haughey Airports Ltd was then renamed Stobart Air Ltd.[18] Plans were announced to redevelop the airport site to include a new passenger terminal, an air freight service, a new joint headquarters for WA Developments and Eddie Stobart, and a 750,000-square-foot (70,000 m2) distribution centre.[6] After the reverse takeover in 2007, the Stobart Air operation remained outside the enlarged Stobart Group, i.e. it was still owned by WA Developments.[9] The March 2008 purchase by the group of W. A. Developments Ltd included a £50,000 option agreement to purchase the airport, controlled by WA Developments through Stobart Air Holdings.[10]

In January 2009, Stobart Group's subsidiary, Stobart Airports Ltd., exercised its option to acquire Carlisle Lake District Airport from Stobart Air Holdings for £14 million (£1 million less than originally announced). Following an independent shareholder vote, the acquisition was completed in May 2009, and the purchase price was reduced to £9.9 million due to a fall in the value of Stobart Group shares.[19]

On 4 April 2008 controversy emerged surrounding the proposed developments to Carlisle Lake District Airport. In response to 63 apparently overly restrictive planning conditions placed on the development plans of Stobart Air, Andrew Tinkler apparently intended to move the Stobart haulage and warehousing operation out of Carlisle to Widnes, as a contingency 'plan B', asserting the redevelopment under the proposed condition would not be completed in time.[20] By 8 April talks had proceeded, and centred on ten disputed points.[21]

On 10 April 2008 it was announced that Andrew Tinkler and Carlisle City Council leader Mike Mitchelson shook hands on a revised list of conditions for the plan.[22] In January 2011, Stobart Air submitted proposals to build a 394,000 sq ft Air Freight Distribution Centre on the site. Under the plans, Eddie Stobart would re-locate all its Carlisle depots to the airport, and there would be passenger flights to and from London Southend Airport, operated by Aer Arann, an airline 5%-owned by the Stobart Group through a 35 convertible preference shares of €1 each acquired on 10 November 2010.[23] Further details on jobs and flights were supplied in support of the application in July 2011.[24]

London Southend Airport[edit]

On 2 December 2008, Stobart Group announced the surprise £21 million purchase of London Southend Airport, through its subsidiary Stobart Airports Ltd from Regional Airports Ltd (who also own London Biggin Hill Airport). The deal completed on 5 December 2008. At the time, the book value of London Southend Airport's assets were £25.5 million, and the acquisition was later described as a "bargain purchase" by the Stobart Group. The deal was paid as to £10 million in new Stobart Group shares, £6 million by a vendor loan note, and the remaining £5 million was to be paid on the completion of the London Southend Airport expansion plans in July 2012.[25]

Air passenger services[edit]

On 11 October 2010, the Stobart Group announced that it was purchasing 35 convertible preference shares of €1 each in the parent company of the Irish airline Aer Arann, Everdeal Ltd, through its subsidiary Aer Arann UK Ltd, for €2.5 million, enabling it to have a 5% stake in the airline. Stobart Group had an option to increase its stake by a further 27.5% to 32.5%. At the same time, Aer Arann announced that it would start twice daily flights from Stobart Group's London Southend Airport to Galway and Waterford in Ireland from 27 March 2011.[26] On 24 February 2017 Stobart Group completed 100% acquisition of Stobart Air, after purchasing the remaining 19% of Everdeal Holdings. Stobart Group also completed 100% ownership of Propius Holdings Ltd, the aircraft leasing firm through which many of the Stobart Air aircraft are sourced.[27] In February 2018, it was reported that Stobart was considering purchasing 100% of Flybe for whom it currently operates flights from London Southend.[28]

Stobart Rail[edit]

At the beginning of June 2008, W. A. Developments Ltd. was renamed Stobart Rail Ltd and became responsible for all the railway maintenance and infrastructure activities of the group.[29] Stobart Rail operates the Southend Airport railway station which it opened on 18 July 2011.[30]

Stobart Investments[edit]

Stobart Estates Holdings Ltd (known as Stobart Investments) comprises the Stobart Group's portfolio of properties, including retail sites, light industrial buildings and distribution centres, office space and holdings which are owned or used in the Group's day-to-day business. It also includes the Group's 49% stake in Eddie Stobart Logistics and the Group's 45% stake in Stobart Air.[31]

Former operations[edit]

Rail tours[edit]

The Stobart Group also briefly entered the passenger railtour market, through the Stobart Pullman, which was a re-branding of the Hertfordshire Rail Tours business inherited from Victa Westlink Rail, a joint venture between its Westlink subsidiary and Victa Railfreight.[8] Traction was provided by Direct Rail Services using Stobart branded carriages. It was launched in February 2008 but as of July 2008 the operation was suspended, presumed closed.[32]

General road haulage[edit]

The largest part of Eddie Stobart Logistics is the original Eddie Stobart road haulage business. It also includes the former operations of James Irlam and Innovative Logistics. The Stobart Group completed the acquisition of Autologic in August 2012. It comprises 2,280 trucks and 3,500 trailers as of August 2012 and uses a "pay per mile" system to charge clients, as opposed to a fixed payment system. When the Stobart Group became listed on the stock exchange, to reflect the new ownership and to take advantage of a new wraparound shrink wrap adhesive plastic application technique, in 2000 the standard truck livery in use since 1970 of red, green and gold was refreshed, in a lighter green, and simplifying the brand name to just Eddie Stobart. This new livery became known as Modern Skin, the previous scheme becoming known as Classic Skin. In May 2007 the Stobart Group was the subject of controversy when it reportedly offered bonuses to its Carlisle-based drivers to work in Livingston in Scotland, to transport goods for Tesco who were in dispute with their distribution centre drivers and facing disruption to their supply chain. The Stobart drivers refused to cross the Livingston picket line.[33]

On 14 September 2009, MP David Taylor officially opened Stobart's Nestlé distribution centre in Bardon, Coalville, Leicestershire, after a £7 million refurbishment creating an extra 62 jobs. The new site previously owned by Innovate Logistics, at full capacity, holds 110,000 pallets, and 88,000 tonnes of goods. The hub distributes approximately 75% of Nestlé UK's deliveries of products such as Kit-Kats, Smarties and Nescafé.[34] In July 2008 it was announced that the group had taken over the chilled and ambient goods distribution operations from the administrators of Innovate Logistics Limited, saving the jobs of around 1,300 Innovate employees.[35]

On 10 March 2008 the Stobart Group announced the acquisition of James Irlam & Sons Ltd, one of the largest independently owned road transport logistics providers in the UK for £59.9 million.[36]

On 1 April 2008 the Stobart Group (incorporating Eddie Stobart Ltd) started its first dedicated operations in Ireland, Stobart Ireland, based in Dublin, following the acquisition of TDG's Irish trailer operations.[37]

Despite news reports to the contrary in 2008,[38] the Irlam and O'Connor fleets received Stobart liveried trucks, although the "Stobart" at the top front of the tractor unit is changed to "Irlam" or "O'Connor", with the relevant web address in place of the Eddie Stobart one.[39]

The Eddie Stobart fleet includes a number of Volvo FM dual-fuel trucks, running primarily on liquid natural gas with diesel as a back-up.[40]

Specialist road haulage[edit]

On 18 June 2012, Stobart Group's subsidiary, Stobart Holdings Ltd., announced the acquisition of the car transporter logistics operator, Autologic Holdings PLC, for 20p in cash per Autologic ordinary share, valuing the company at £12.4 million. After Autologic shareholder approval, the acquisition was completed on 10 August 2012.[41]

Rail freight services[edit]

Under the brand Stobart Rail, the group commenced a rail freight service with rail operations provided by Direct Rail Services (DRS). For rail freight transport the group owns warehousing at the rail-connected Daventry International Railfreight Terminal (DIRFT), and owns the rail-connected Widnes Intermodal Rail Depot. A service operated by DRS started on 4 November 2008 from Inverness southwards carrying containers operated for Tesco. The containers all carry the "Stobart Rail" or "Tesco - Less CO2" branding. Trucks carrying Stobart Rail branded containers are also carried by the haulage company J G Russell which partners Stobart in this operation.[42]

In 2009 Stobart switched rail partner from DRS to DB Schenker Rail (UK).[43] On 30 October 2009 Stobart Rail commenced a new train service (operated in conjunction with DB Schenker Rail (UK); it operates a 1,100 mile journey from Valencia, providing a low carbon alternative for the import of fresh Spanish produce, terminating at the Ford Dagenham rail head.[44]

Widnes inland port and industrial park[edit]

With the Westbury takeover Stobart gained the Port of Weston in Runcorn. At the same time as the Westbury merger it was announced that the "O'Connor Group" was also being purchased by Westlink, at the time a wholly owned business of Westbury, from the O'Connor family for £22 million.[45] The O'Connor Group operates a truck fleet of approximately 90 vehicles, offering transmodal road rail services at the 'inland port', Widnes Intermodal Rail Depot. In March 2007 Westbury had also acquired AHC – a rail terminal operator and storage, facilities handling and transport business – operating on a site adjacent to the O'Connor terminal.[8] Prior to its full takeover in March 2008, WA Developments had been advising Stobart Group on the redevelopment of the inland port operation in Widnes and potential port operation in Runcorn.[10]

Westbury Properties[edit]

In return for the reverse takeover deal in 2007 which saw Westbury become the new Stobart Group, Westbury sold the bulk of its commercial property portfolio, Westbury Properties Ltd., to another WA Developments subsidiary, WADI Properties Ltd., for £142.0 million in cash, thereby retaining the assets under the control of Tinkler owner of WA Developments), while being outside the new group.[9] Westbury Properties Ltd, owned Moneypenny Ltd, (known as the Moneypenny Property Portfolio) which comprised 18 freehold and long leasehold properties, a mixture of commercial, industrial and residential properties primarily in the South-East. Due to a fall in property values during 2007–2011, the Stobart Group also announced an option to buy back Westbury Properties Ltd. from WADI Properties Ltd. expiring on 15 August 2011, as some of its properties, owned by a Westbury Properties Ltd. subsidiary, Moneypenny Ltd., were used by the Stobart Group for its operations.[46] On 17 January 2012, Stobart Group announced it was purchasing WADI Properties Ltd. itself for £12.35 million (£5.15 million in cash and £7.2 million in new Stobart Group ordinary shares) from W. A. Developments International Ltd. Following another independent shareholder vote, the acquisition was completed on 28 February 2012.[47]

In popular culture[edit]

Channel 5 and Princess Productions released a program dedicated to the Stobart group, Eddie Stobart: Trucks & Trailers, which first aired on 24 September 2010. Ever since, the popular TV show has ratings of 1.85 million and gives an insight into the company and some of its famous drivers on a day-to-day basis. [48]

The Stobart Group was featured on Top Gear in 1995, when presenter Tony Mason visited the company's Carlisle headquarters. Mason talked to members of staff and discussed the popular perception of the company. Another appearance was made on Top Gear during the Reliant Robin rocket challenge. The Reliant was transported to the launch site on a flatbed Stobart truck to Richard Hammond and James May.[49]

A one-off TV show was produced for ITV4 called Eddie Stobart - Smart Truckers. Narrated by Paddy McGuinness, the show included the boss William Stobart doing deliveries to distribution centres and the firm's race horses.[50]

A CD has been produced called Eddie Stobart Trucking Songs. The CD features all the truckers' favorite rock songs and artists including Queen, Fleetwood Mac and Motorhead. It made No.1 in the charts and is available from most supermarkets.[51]

To help celebrate the 25th anniversary of Eddie Stobart Ltd, the Somerset group The Wurzels recorded a new song, "I wanna be an Eddie Stobart Driver". The song graced the UK Top 100 in 1995. The original, together with a spoof called "I wanna join the Eddie Stobart fan club", are still available for download via iTunes.[52]

Its familiar red, green, and white paint jobs are seen in Euro Truck Simulator 2 (game by SCS Software) as a mod created by Eddie Stobart and trucking fans. The Stobart Rail group also features in the game as a skin on the Scania R-series only.[53]

In 2001, an animated series called Steady Eddie was released on home video by Contender Entertainment Group. It was based on the books by Linda Jennings. The series features characters such as Steady Eddie, the protagonist, Oliver Overdrive, Steady Eddie's arch-rival, Jock the Tanker and Lorretta Lorry, Steady Eddie's friends, and Freddie Forklift, a forklift who works in the yard making deliveries to Steady Eddie. [54]

Brand promotion[edit]

Stobart Group Brands LLP and Eddie Stobart Promotions Ltd have various Brand Promotion services, such as the Stobart Members Club, Stobart Fest, Stobart Sponsorship and Stobart Motorsport. In 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 Eddie Stobart was recognised as a UK Superbrand by Superbrands Ltd.[55]

Stobart Members Club[edit]

The tradition of naming Eddie Stobart lorry cabins with female names, combined with a very distinctive livery, has led members of the general public to "collect" sightings of Stobart lorries. This has occurred to the extent that a fan club was formed, eventually supported by the company which arranges depot tours and lorry rides, and sells model lorries etc.[56]

Sponsorship[edit]

Since the takeover of Eddie Stobart by WA Developments in 2004 and its subsequent listing on the London Stock Exchange in 2007, Stobart has taken to a high-profile sponsorship programme, including:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Annual Report 2017". Stobart Group. Retrieved 1 June 2017. 
  2. ^ "Former haulage firm boss Eddie Stobart died with debts of £200,000". Daily Mail. 21 May 2011. Retrieved 1 June 2017. 
  3. ^ "Edward Stobart". The Economist. 7 April 2012. Retrieved 3 September 2012. 
  4. ^ Roach, Martin (2012). Eddie Stobart: The Ultimate Guide to the British Trucking Legends. Virgin Books. ISBN 978-0753540909. 
  5. ^ Davies, Hunter (2001). The Eddie Stobart Story. London: HarperCollinsEntertainment. ISBN 0-00-711597-0. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Where next for 'Steady Eddie' Stobart?". BBC News. 6 September 2006. 
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  18. ^ Carlisle Airport News Archived 27 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved 8 April 2006.
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  21. ^ Stobart and Council Edge Towards City Airport Deal Archived 12 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Carlisle News and Star, 8 April 2008
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  32. ^ "Scot-rail charter trains 2008". Scot-rail.co.uk. Retrieved 18 February 2010. 
  33. ^ "Socialist Worker report". Socialistworker.co.uk. Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  34. ^ MP opens £7m Nestle hub This is Business East Midlands, 15 September 2009
  35. ^ Stobart deal saves 1300 jobs at Innovate Logistics Yorkshire Post, 1 July 2008
  36. ^ Irlam brothers sell to rival Eddie Stobart The Telegraph, 14 March 2008
  37. ^ Eddie Stobart arrives in Ireland Archived 25 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine. HGV Ireland, 5 April 2008
  38. ^ Stobart haulage unveils expansion BBC News, 10 March 2008
  39. ^ Rebranded Irlams Lorry Spotting - Image of new Stobart Irlam and O'Connor tractors in Stobart colours. This has now changed again; Irlam and O'Connor Tractor Units are now being re-branded with "Stobart" and StobartGroup.com.
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  55. ^ "Superbrands video". Retrieved 1 June 2017. 
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External links[edit]