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Upbeat Inchcape set to rapidly expand retail network

Inchcape's strong growth in profits has been driven by the success of its UK franchise operation, which is set for accelerated growth in the next few months.

The company's interims for its global operation showed a rise in headline pre-tax profits on January to June 2000 of 75% from £30m to £52.5m. Turnover was up from £1,530m to £1,721m.

In the UK, operating profit was £8.7m compared to £4.7m in the first six months of 2000.

Profits for Inchcape Retail have grown 21.8% to £6.7m, driven by “the return of the retail car buyer”. Private sales increased 18.8% while the total car market is up just 4.3%.

Peter Johnson, Inchcape chief executive, said: “In the UK our partnerships with BMW, Toyota, Lexus, Audi, Jaguar and Land Rover are driving outstanding earnings' growth through our specialist retail division. We have added to our portfolio in the first half and I expect this expansion to accelerate in the second half.”

A number of acquisitions, he said, have been identified and should be concluded shortly.

“I am particularly encouraged by the significant potential shown by our business services companies in the UK. A number of our current initiatives should come to fruition in the second half.”

Eurofleet, in particular, Mr Johnson said, is “performing in line with expectations”. He added that the remarketing and fleet management businesses had “significant growth potential for the future”.

Autobytel was said to be a continuing part of the automotive services strategy. But “online transactions are not growing as rapidly as originally anticipated but losses, as forecast, have been significantly reduced”.

The operating profit for the six months to June 30,2001 for Inchcape's e-commerce activites was £4.6m compared to £4m in the same period in 2000.

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