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Inchcape beats expectations

Global automotive group Inchcape saw its UK businesses outperform its expectations in the first quarter of 2011, as demand for premium new cars continues to lead the market.

“We continued to outperform the industry, gaining market share, as we benefited from our scale representation in the luxury segment,” said the group in a trading statement to the London Stock Exchange.

“Our used car margins remained robust and our aftersales business continued to deliver a resilient performance.”

Global turnover of £1.563 billion was slightly better than Inchcape’s expectations, with total revenue down 0.6% and like-for-like revenue down 0.8%.

A 9.6% fall in revenue in the UK and Europe was offset by 10.9% growth in sales in Asia-Pacific and the emerging markets. Expansion is planned for its businesses in Russia, Poland, South America and China.

A cost reduction programme, announced near the end of 2010, is “on track” with 12 underperforming sites closed in the first quarter of 2011.

Inchcape said its financial position remains strong and it expects to end 2011 with about £100 million net cash.

Looking ahead, Inchcape continues to expect to deliver a solid performance in 2011. It expects some reduction in new car revenues from the after effects of the Japan earthquake, and is taking cost actions to offset the impact.

André Lacroix, group chief executive, said: “While we will be impacted by the effects of the earthquake in Japan on the supply chain, Inchcape is well equipped to handle the temporary supply setback in some of our markets during the next few months.

“We operate primarily in the premium segment, where buying a car is an important and considered decision and we expect most customers to be prepared to wait for a period to take delivery of their desired vehicle.

“We are maintaining our focus on costs and taking appropriate action.”

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