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Inchcape has £18m for UK expansion

Inchcape has beaten off a bid by a major shareholder to return £18m to investors because it wants to keep the money to develop its UK automotive business. It has so far returned £26.7m of capital through a share buy-back programme.

In the new AM100, Inchcape Retail has a turnover of £690m compared with £785m last year. It has slipped from No5 to eighth.

Guinness Peat Group, which takes stakes in companies and then tries to influence their direction, was heavily defeated at Inchcape's annual meeting.

GPG had proposed that Inchcape should release the funds by way of a special dividend or in another way. The investor has reduced its shareholding from 15.99% to 10.5%.

Sir John Egan, chairman of Inchcape, said the company had made an encouraging start to 2001 during the first four months. Shareholders had supported the board's strategy for delivering value.

“We are striking a carefully considered balance between the investment needs of the company and the return of capital to shareholders,” he said.

“In the UK our retail business has benefited from a return of consumer confidence resulting in a significant uplift in private retail sales. Our leasing business is benefiting from the stabilisation of three-year-old used car prices this year. Overall we expect our UK results to rebound.”

He said this year's results were expected to be “significantly above” last year's.

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