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Record first half profits for Inchcape

Automotive retail group Inchcape plc, the international automotive retail group, has this morning reported a rise in profit before tax of 11.1% to £112 million in the six months of the year to June 30.

Its interim results also reveal sales up 8.1% to £2.44 billion.

Highlights of the period Inchcape reports included an "outstanding" performance in the UK with strong like-for-like sales growth in sales and margins leading to record profits here, as well as in Greece and Belgium.

The acquisition of Lind Automotive for £110.4 million in May was completed on July 4.

Inchcape chairman Peter Johnson said: "Inchcape has delivered strong progress in the first half of 2006. This reflects the success of our strategy and the benefits of a broad geographic spread.

"UK, Australia, Greece and Belgium all achieved record profits in the first six months of 2006. In the face of easing consumer demand and a decline in the passenger car market, our UK Retail business grew trading profits by 49.1%, achieving a record trading margin of 2.8%. The Group regained market leadership for Toyota in Greece in the period."

"Hong Kong and Singapore suffered challenging trading conditions and the run out of several core models. Nonetheless we retained substantial market leadership for Toyota in both these markets. In Australia, Subaru's market share continued to grow, achieving a record 3.9%."

"Inchcape's strong operating cash flow qualities and the strength of our balance sheet leave us well placed to play a leading role in the industry consolidation happening around the world. Also, it enables us to expand where we can achieve scale operations in fast growing markets. Our strategy is to increase our scale geographical spread from six to ten core markets over the next five years. We are building a strong pipeline of investment opportunities to achieve this."

"In the second half we will benefit from our continued focus on customer service, the introduction of new models, improved vehicle supply and the Lind acquisition. As a result, although market conditions remain challenging, we are well placed to deliver another year of growth in 2006."

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