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CEO vacancy at Inchcape as Johnson takes chair

Inchcape has begun the process of finding a new chief executive following the announcement that Peter Johnson will become its non-executive chairman next year when Sir John Egan, the present chairman, retires.

The move means Johnson, who last month received AM’s Personality of the Year Award and has led the company to exceed £4bn turnover, will have to step down as chief executive, a post he has occupied since 1999. Inchcape says it is “looking at the automotive sector, but not exclusively,” for a successor.

Its financial statement for the 12-month period to December 31, 2004, shows growth in its UK and international businesses. Here, turnover rose year-on year to £1.33bn from £1.24bn, and its operating profit before exceptional items rose to £21.2m from £15.5m.

However the majority of the group’s business is overseas. For the whole group, operating profit before goodwill and exceptional items reached £176.2m following a 8.2% increase in turnover to £4.2bn.

“In the UK, dealer consolidation is continuing and there are many quality businesses that would fit well within our portfolio,” says Egan’s statement to the Stock Exchange. Last year, the business acquired five Mercedes-Benz dealerships in the East Midlands and increased its Toyota and Volkswagen representation.

Egan reports new and used car sales were up, increases in service hours sold, finance and insurance income plus improved finance penetration.

He remains upbeat for the coming year. “The focus is as much on margin as volumes,” he says. “There was margin pressure in mid to late 2004, due to over-supply, but UK Retail still managed to improve margins. In 2005 we are targeting further improvements.”

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