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Lookers has declared financial results for 2012 which are ahead of expectations and with a record performance from its motor division. The results mark the group’s fourth year of profit growth.
The acquisition of Lomond Audi and contract hire operator, Fleet Financial, has boosted turnover to over £2bn and pre-tax profits increased to £35.3m from £31.4m in 2011. The group said adjusted profit before tax increased to a record £36.8 million (2011: £33.8 million) and operating profit was also up, at £48.1m.
Although the group invested £18.2 million on acquisitions during the year, the level of gearing has been maintained at 24% compared to 20% last year, with net debt of £48.2 million compared to £39.5 million at the start of the year.
Lookers is rewarding shareholders with an increase in the final dividend for the year of 12% and a total dividend for the year of 2.35p a share.
Chief executive, Peter Jones, told shareholders: “I am pleased to report that the motor division increased profit before tax by 16% to £31.7 million, a record for the business and a significant increase over the prior year's result of £27.4 million.”
Core retail new car sales increased by 12.0% compared to 2011 while the group withdrew from fleet with sector volumes falling by 9.4%. Gross profit on new retail cars increased by 3.7% whilst gross profit on fleet business increased by 19% which more than offset the reduction in fleet volume.
Group used car sales volumes increased by 12% compared to 2011 levels and gross profit per unit increased by 10.5%. Despite continued pressure in the sector, the aftersales business in the motor division increased turnover by 2.8%, although a focus on older vehicles resulted in a slight reduction in margin from 42% to 40%.
After a difficult first half of the year for the parts division volumes were protected by active pricing management and turnover for the 12 months was therefore £0.1m ahead of 2011. Jones said the action had an adverse impact on gross margins which reduced slightly from 30.5% to 29.9%, with total gross profit in the parts division reduced by £1.1m.
Jones added: “The new car retail market is showing some recovery and our order take for the important month of March is tracking on plan.”