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HR Owen to sell BMW outlets in luxury drive

HR Owen is close to agreeing a deal to sell its BMW and Mini dealerships in London and south-east England.

Chief executive Nick Lancaster said the disposal is in line with the group’s strategy of concentrating on luxury brands.

The next move will be to sell its two Volvo dealerships in London.

“BMW is a successful company with great products, but we have some exciting plans with regards to our core luxury business,” he said. Lancaster declined to give more detail, or to disclose the turnover of his BMW outlets.

BMW and Volvo have agreed to the disposals. A BMW UK spokeswoman said: “We are supportive of the prospective buyer, which has experience in the London market, and we hope the deal goes through.”

HR Owen sells new BMWs at Brentford, and new Minis at Heathrow and Chiswick. It has BMW and Mini aftersales sites at Brentford, Heathrow and Holland Park (north London).

Its Volvo and BMW businesses underperformed until recently, blamed on declining margins and market pressure. Lancaster has spoken often about the difficulty of operating volume brands within the high-cost M25 area.

However, in HR Owen’s interim financial results this week, it said two BMW sites had returned to profit, while the Volvo outlets “held their position in an extremely competitive market sector”.

Lancaster built a 44-site multi-franchise dealer group based in London but has progressively reduced its scale over the past five years in order to focus on its most profitable businesses.

The results show turnover from continuing operations is up 33% to £78.9m, and operating profit increased from £605,000 to £1.68m.

Six HR Owen franchises fit in with its luxury focus: Bentley, Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and Rolls-Royce. During the last six months all achieved good sales, and HR Owen reports strong forward orders for all brands.

Lancaster also has faith in Alfa Romeo, having introduced the franchise last year, although this week he said its first year sales have been “slower than expected”.

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