Without the exceptions profit was up 8.3% to £163.1m. Profits for its UK Retail division was up 32% to £16.9m.
Peter Johnson, Inchcape group chief executive, says: “The group has again performed at a very high level in 2004, with continued profit growth and further strong cash generation.
“Our strategic growth plans remain broadly based and encompass UK Retail as well as further developments in Eastern Europe. We also have expansion programmes in place for Greece and Australia, and we will continue our research into emerging markets such as China.
“We intend to return £65m to our shareholders through an on market share buy back programme and even after this we will still have substantial financial capacity, which will enable us to deliver our strategy in 2005 and beyond.”
Manufacturer registrations for the franchises represented by Inchcape’s UK Retail operations fell by 2.4% in 2004.
However, UK Retail dealerships achieved a 7.4% increase in new unit sales on a like-for-like basis. This was due to strong performances in particular from BMW/MINI, Jaguar and Vauxhall.
UK Retail trading profits and related Financial Services profits (included within Financial Services), before stock holding interest, rose by 31.2% to £22.7m.