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HR Owen blames block exemption for profit dip

HR Owen, the prestige and premium retailer, is blaming uncertainty surrounding the changes to block exemption for a £400,000 fall in its interim profits.

For the six months ending June 2003, turnover was up from £251m to £264m over the same period last year because of acquisitions. But profits after tax were £1m compared to £1.4m in 2002.

At the start of the year, the group had plans to dispose of two businesses, close one, move five and acquire two. Chairman John MacArthur says the strategy was delayed while carmakers finalised their franchising plans forcing the group to re-think its strategy.

“Several of these plans will impact adversely on profits this year on a one-off basis but the new dealerships will add strength to the group,” says MacArthur.

Franchises operating in central London found trading conditions difficult, especially when it came to corporate sales. HR Owen's profits were also hit by launch delays to high-margin vehicles from Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini and the sale of its successful Porsche franchise in Hatfield. The group is also looking to off-load its Maserati franchise in St Albans.

It is pinning hopes for a turnaround on its growing BMW/ Mini and Lexus division. The group recently acquired the Lexus franchise for Brighton.

MacArthur says the outcome for the full year will be affected by the disruption caused by block exemption but adds that prospects for the mid-term are encouraging.

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