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Activist shareholder calls for Caffyns shake-up

An activist stakeholder of publicly listed car dealer Caffyns has urged chairman-elect Richard Wright to take decisive action to improve shareholder value.

The Caffyns Shareholders' Action Group, which represents holders of a 4.5% stake, said equity value has been eroded since the late 1990s, describing the company's performance over the last decade as "dire".

It said it trusts former Ford executive Wright's arrival last month, and appointment as chairman next summer, will bring change.

Caffyns has seen its half-year turnover and profit drop following closures and disposals as it fights to stabilise profits for the longer term.

In the six months to September 30 it posted revenues of £86.7m, down 16.5% from £103.8m, and profit before tax slumped 74% from £917,000 to £241,000.

Chief executive Simon Caffyn said the first half-year’s trading period coincided with a marked downturn in general retail demand and consumer discretionary spending which impacted Caffyns and the retail motor industry as a whole.

Trading was also disturbed by a refurbishment at Lewes Land Rover, restructuring of Brighton Ford and Volvo and the closure of Sevenoaks Peugeot.

“The outlook for the rest of our trading year remains both challenging and uncertain,” he added.

Caffyns’ emphasis remains on careful stock management and the retention of aftersales customers.

Costs have been cut further and it continues to review all areas of the business to identify any inefficiencies.

It has put four properties up for sale.

Caffyn said the strategy remains to focus on representing premium and premium-volume franchises which have proven more resilient in poor economic conditions, and the closure of non-core loss-making businesses is freeing up capital to invest in its strategic operations to deliver bigger scale businesses with greater profit opportunity.



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