Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

P&O shares surged on March 23 when the group announced it was selling off all its assets except its shipping interests. It was thought some £2 billion would be raised in a restructuring which would allow the company to concentrate solely on its core interests of cruises, ferries and ports.

One of the key assets to be disposed of is Earls Court Olympia, the two exhibition centres in West London. Olympia hosts the Fine Art and Antiques Fair three times a year, an event which has been running for 25 years while Earls Court is the venue for the recently launched Great Antiques Fair, initially staged in August but this year rescheduled to September.

Like other exhibitions at the halls the fairs are organised in-house by P&O Events and this organising arm will go as part of a package with the actual buildings. Over the years P&O Events have developed a very close working relationship with the antiques trade and there is no doubt that the loss of the Olympia fairs would cause a major upheaval within the British trade.

The June staging of the Fine Art and Antiques Fair is a seminal annual event on the antiques calendar which has repercussions far outside the interests of the 400 exhibitors. The situation is compounded by the lack of any alternative exhibition space for such a fair in or near the capital.

Obviously, there can be no guarantees of the future under a new owner but talking to the Antiques Trade Gazette last week Hugh Scrimgeour was optimistic.

Emphasising there is no timetable, he told us Warburgs had been appointed to handle the sell-off and that it would take some time. He said: "I think the antiques fairs will continue to go from strength to strength; I have no personal concern about the long-term future of the fairs, as their function and role within the antiques trade is assured. P&O Events goes with the buildings but I feel the change should have no effect on the fairs which are successful in all ways."

He continued: "The fairs meet a need, they are an asset any buyer will want to acquire. I think the new owners will continue with the fairs, otherwise there is no purpose in their being interested. The antiques business is very close to our hearts and we are sure the buyer will feel the same."

The antiques fairs may not be big moneyspinners like the Boat Show, Ideal Home Exhibition or Oasis concerts, but they have a proven track record and undoubted prestige.