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Lookers pleased with Mercedes purchases

Lookers chief executive Ken Surgenor says four Mercedes-Benz dealerships are the most significant part of the 10-site acquisition from HR Owen.

They form a market area: Brighton, Eastbourne, Gatwick and Redhill.

“We have been hoping to add Mercedes for some time,” says Surgenor, whose group paid £8.1m for assets plus £5m goodwill to acquire the 10 outlets. Lookers will also buy stock at net book value on completion.

“We would also like to gain the BMW car franchise and have been talking to them off and on. We represent BMW’s motorcycle division in Northern Ireland,” he adds. “We might be interested in more Mercedes later but I don’t want to be greedy – we have work to do to integrate the new businesses. We intend to increase their sales and profitability.”

The 10 outlets, which add about £175m to Lookers’ turnover, made an operating profit of around £1.8m in 2005. The other six are Land Rover at South Kensington and Acton, Lexus at Hatfield and Brighton, and Chrysler-Jeep at Romford and Acton.

In February, Lookers bought six dealerships (two each representing Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo) from HR Owen. Its turnover is now around £1.4bn.

This latest expansion is in line with Surgenor’s promise to shareholders in the spring that the group would continue to expand.

Nick Lancaster, HR Owen chief executive, says: “We have sold or disposed of 28 car dealerships this year and we’re still downsizing ahead of new business initiatives to be announced soon.

“Our Volvo outlets in north, central and south London do not fall within an HR Owen division, and we would talk to anyone interested in buying them.”

HR Owen’s divisions have Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, BMW/Mini, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati.

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