Asbury quarterly earnings fall

By From Reuters| Feb 16 2007
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Asbury Automotive Group Inc. said today that quarterly profit fell as costs from discontinued operations outweighed rising sales.

The company said it is looking to acquire dealerships of U.S. automakers this year.

Fourth-quarter profit sank to $12 million, from $20.5 million a year earlier.

Total revenue rose 4.7 percent to $1.38 billion.

Same-store retail revenue and gross profit rose 5 percent and 6 percent, respectively, the company said.

Company executives told analysts and reporters on a conference call that they expected overall industry retail sales to be flat from last year.

Import and luxury brands constitute 80 percent of Asbury's new vehicle sales, which it said puts the company in a position of growth this year as foreign automakers, particularly Toyota Motor Corp., are expected to increase their share of the U.S. market in 2007.

Asbury said it had up to $250 million on hand for any acquisitions in 2007 and would be looking at some of the domestic dealerships that are for sale.

Both Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler group have announced their intention to consolidate or reduce the number of U.S. dealerships.

Asbury Automotive ranks No. 6 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 dealership groups in the United States with retail sales of 105,521 new vehicles in 2005.

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