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Group 1 Automotive growth continues with record profitability in 2021

Earl J Hesterberg, Group 1 Automotive

Group 1 Automotive has reported a 27.2% increase in revenues as gross profit rose 40.7% in its annual financial results for 2021.

The US-based retail group, which owns and operates 75 franchised sites across 55 locations in the UK, and 202 in total, grew its revenues to $13.5bn (£9.96bn) and gross profits to $2.4bn (£1.77bn) during the period to December 31, 2021.

In the UK, revenues at the AM100 operation rose 9.8% to $2.49bn and gross profit leapt by nearly 36% to $329m in a year which saw it grow through the acquisition of nine-dealership business Robinsons Motor Group.

Commenting on the record performance, group 1 Automotive president and chief executive, Earl J. Hesterberg, said: "The record profits achieved in 2021 were a function of an agile management team responding to constant challenges created by the pandemic, along with a very powerful service operation and strong cost control. 

"Despite these choppy operational waters, I am very pleased that we were able to dramatically increase the size of our company with the acquisition of $2.5bn (£1.84bn) in additional annual revenues, while at the same time returning significant capital to our shareholders via share repurchases. 

“The acquisition of the Prime Auto Group in the north-eastern U.S., along with the pending sale of our Brazilian operations, which is scheduled to close in Q2, puts us in a strong position to continue this type of flexible capital allocation in the year ahead."

Group 1’s annual financial statements revealed that its revenues from new car sales in the UK market rose by 18.9% to $263.6m, while used car revenues rose 47.6% to £262m.

Gross profit on new vehicles rose by 85.8% to $22.8m (£16.81m), it reported, as used car gross profits rose by 80.1% to $19.5m (£14.38m).

The full-year results come seven months after Hesterberg predicted the release of “several years” pent-up demand in the UK car retail sector.

Speaking at group’s first-half 2021 results call, Hesterberg said: “In the UK market, which was finally allowed to reopen in mid-April, we saw aftersales revenues increased sequentially throughout the quarter with the month of June seeing an 11% same-store increase over June 2019.

“As with the US, we expect to see continued sequential growth throughout the second half of 2021.”

Speaking before the sector was gripped by a vehicle supply shortage, Hesterberg added: “Consumer demand for vehicles in the UK is extremely strong. We retailed nearly 18,000 new and used units in the second quarter, a 31% sequential increase from the first quarter.

“We believe pent-up demand built over the past several years due to both Brexit and the pandemic will help drive strong UK vehicle demand into the foreseeable future.”

Group 1’s continued strong financial performance has allowed it to drive ahead with a share repurchasing scheme.

During the current year, the Company repurchased 1.1m common shares, representing approximately 6.0% of the Company's outstanding common shares, at an average price of $190.82 (£140.73), for a total of $210.6m (£155.32m).

The Company has $74.3m (£54.78m) remaining on its Board authorized common share repurchase program. 

As of December 31, 2021, the Company had 17.2 million common shares outstanding.

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