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HR Owen chief slams gossip

Nick Lancaster, chief executive of HR Owen, has dismissed industry speculation that he plans to pull out of motor retailing to concentrate on property dealing.

Questions about Lancaster's commitment to selling cars come after more than two years of reorganisation at HR Owen. Extensive redevelopment continues at some dealerships to bring them up to manufacturer standards. “It is completely and utterly not the case, and I have no idea what led to such gossip,” says Lancaster on the suggestions. “I am and will remain very much a motor retailer.”

The group suffered a pre-tax loss of £3.3m last year against a profit of £2.2m in 2002, while turnover rose from £490m to £534m. Lancaster says: “The loss was a combination of write-offs during the reorganisation and trading losses. We have out-performed most dealer groups and I am especially optimistic about Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini which have built up large order books. I am looking forward to increased profitability throughout the group.”

At last week's (May 12) AGM, chairman John MacArthur said the group had raised £7m to provide working capital and fund an acquisition programme. This was achieved through the issue of new equity at £1.65 per share which was “very well received” and led to a share price rise.

MacArthur told shareholders: “We believe the group is now in a strong position to capitalise on our unique set of franchises as one of the first retailers to configure all of its brands in the new market format.”

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