Belfast Telegraph

Car dealer bucks trend and drives up revenues

By Symon Ross

The parent company of Charles Hurst Group has reported record profits for 2009 despite difficult market conditions for the motor industry.

Car dealer Lookers plc said its adjusted pre-tax profit before goodwill and one-off items more than doubled to £28.3m from £14m a year earlier, on a 4.2% like-for-like increase in revenues to £1.75bn. It did not give a breakdown of results from its Northern Ireland business.

The gains were driven by a strong performance from the firm’s parts division.

Like other dealerships the company has also benefited from the Government’s car scrappage scheme, which runs out at the end of March.

Lookers said new car sales had risen 13% on a like-for-like basis while used car sales were up 6%.

The company, which last year raised £80m by selling shares in a bid to cut its debts, said its results should be considered against the background of the difficult trading conditions in the UK motor retail market which started in 2008 and continued in 2009, as well as difficult general economic conditions across the UK.

Commenting on the results, Lookers chief executive Peter Jones said: “We are pleased to announce that we have delivered a record trading performance for the company in 2009 despite difficult market conditions.

“Although we believe that market conditions will remain challenging in 2010, we are encouraged to report that we have made a strong start to the year.

“The strong performance from both the parts and motor divisions, supported by our strengthened balance sheet and reduced cost base, places us in a strong position and gives us confidence that we will continue to trade successfully through the period, and be in a position to pursue strategic growth opportunities as they arise.”

Current trading was ahead of both its forecasts and the prior year, and Lookers said it had continued to outperform the new car market so far in 2010.

The firm also said it intends to start paying dividends to shareholders again this year, subject to satisfactory trading results.

Lookers also thanked Ken Surgenor for his hard work as chief executive before retiring in September last year.

Mr Surgenor now runs the Charles Hurst group of businesses in Northern Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph