Friday, April 06, 2007

Fairfield's Copart Taking Its Act Overseas

Fairfield's Copart Taking Its Act Overseas
By Kathy L'Ecluse

FAIRFIELD - Copart will take its highly successful operation overseas this year with the planned purchase of a vehicle salvage company in Britain.

Copart helps vehicle suppliers, primarily insurance companies, sell salvage vehicles online. It owns and operates 124 facilities in the United States and Canada. This would be the first time it would own an operation overseas.

Copart reached an agreement with the board of Universal Salvage PLC approving the purchase by the wholly owned Copart subsidiary, Copart UK, officials announced Thursday. The purchase will likely become final this summer in the absence of any other offers at a higher price.

Universal manages the collection and disposal of vehicles for a variety of clients, dealing with a wide range of vehicles including accident-damaged cars, commercial vehicles, motorcycles and end-of-life vehicles.

Similarly, Copart provides such services to vehicle suppliers, using a virtual auction-style trading platform to sell vehicles to licensed dismantlers, rebuilders and used vehicle dealers.

Copart has sold cars overseas for years. Its international market has fueled much of the growth in its buyer base, which increased more than 300 percent in the past three years, said Rob Vannuccini, corporate vice president of market for Copart.

"From our international buyers, we've seen an increase in bids and purchases from many of the former Russian republics," he said. "For example, Lithuania is a big role player, because they buy the cars and then take them into Russia and the other countries through their ports."

The influence of the international market has pushed the number of registered buyers from 30,000 to 100,000, Vannuccini added. The influx of the international bidders has also raised the sale prices for the vehicles.

"More than 50 percent of our bids are affected by (international bidders)," he said. "Twenty-nine percent of our cars are sold to the highest bidder - who happens to be outside the U.S. And about 25 percent of the time, the second highest bidder is from the international market as well, which means that they influence the bid for the U.S. buyers."

With this purchase, Copart will own an operation overseas as well as sell vehicles overseas. Copart will offer Universal shareholders about $4 per share, for a total price of about $112.8 million, plus other obligations totaling $13.5 million.

Reach Kathy L'Ecluse at 427-6933 or

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