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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Independent auto auctions continue to be a hot commodity as auction companies vie for market share by adding new facilities and expanding locations. 

Pierre Pons, managing partner and president of TPC Management Co., said that the number of auction acquisitions and consolidations completed this year could readily outpace those of recent history. 

"We are seeing greater interest on the part of both buyers and sellers of auction properties as the year progresses," Pons shared. "On the one hand, many independent auctions recorded very successful operations in 2009 despite a tough economic and automotive climate, putting them in a very favorable position to sell." 

He continued: "On the other hand, we are presently working with a larger number of interested buyers than I have seen in the past five years, and with the uncertainties of 2009 behind us they seem eager to move forward with acquisitions." 

Those buyers actively seeking new properties all seem to be looking for similar auction profiles, Pons stated. "Those with a strong presence in the dealer business, a good strategic location, and a well-trained auction staff," he noted. 

Pons expects that by year-end, the number of transactions could equal those in the early part of the decade when both Manheim and ADESA made numerous strategic acquisitions. 

"In addition to the two major auction chains, we have new players in the industry, each of which is well-capitalized with an aggressive outlook on growth," Pons explained. "The public market success of companies like Copart, a long-time client of TPC, has captured considerable interest to our industry including financial buyer prospects joining the existing strategic buyer group." 

He continued: "We are also seeing the emergence of what I call 'mini-chains' — groups with three to six auctions sharing a common ownership and targeting a specific region or market segment. At the same time, we see continued growth in Internet remarketing while traditional brick and mortar auctions explore ways to gain a larger share of those sales on their proprietary channels. 

"I would be surprised if we do not see a number of independent auction sale transactions in the second half of the year, based on in the interest and activity in the early months of 2010," Pons added.