Auto Trader’s annual financial results have revealed turnover of £281.6 million during the year to March 27 – up 10% year-on-year.
The online retailer claimed average revenues from retailer forecourts up 10.5% per month to £1,384 (2015: £1,252) and boasted an audience six-times larger than its nearest rival – measured by cross-platform visits – in the annual results published via the London Stock Exchange.
Online advert visits rose by 7.5% to 243 million (2015: 226 million) with the number of retailer forecourts advertising on the Auto Trader marketplace up 0.5% at 13,514 (2015: 13,452)
Underlying operating profit at Auto Trader was up 19% to £171.3 million (2015: £144.1 million), operating profit up 27% to £169.6 million (2015: £133.1 million) and operating cash flow up 30% to £177.0 million (2015: £135.8 million).
Net external debt, meanwhile, was down £135.3 million to £392.6 million (2015: £527.9 million).
Trevor Mather, chief executive of Auto Trader Group plc, said that he was “delighted” with the progress that the Group has made in its first full year as a public company.
He added: “We have continued to enhance the value that we deliver to our vehicle retailer and manufacturer customers, not only by providing them with the largest and most engaged marketplace in which to market their vehicles, but also by giving them the tools to help them run their own businesses more effectively.”
Zeus Capital financial analyst Mike Allen said that Auto Trader’s results had exceeded predictions but credited the business’ profits from retailers as the main driver of its success. He said: “The majority of revenue growth was achieved through an improvement in ARPR (average revenue per retailer), which was +10.5% YOY to £1384.
“This increase was said to be driven by all of its growth drivers in stock, price, cross sell and up-sell, albeit 44% of this uplift was driven by an increase in paid-for stock listing, with price accounting for 31% of the growth in ARPR.
“Underlying operating margins improved by 5 percentage points to 61% with good cost control being demonstrated.”
Mather said that Auto Trader remained focused on making the whole car buying process easier and less stressful for consumers, adding: “We do this by using our own data and market insight to enhance our existing products and create innovative new solutions that help our customers win in the marketplace.
“The new financial year has started well, and the Board is confident of delivering continuous improvement in both our consumer and retailer solutions, as well as our overall performance in the coming year."
Auto Trader’s basic earnings per share during the year to May 27 were 12.87p, up on 2015’s 0.84p.
Shareholders could benefit from a proposed final dividend of 1p per share, totalling 1.5p per share for the year.
A rolling programme of share buy-backs to commence imminently, with the majority of surplus cash after dividends being returned to shareholders.
Auto Trader acknowledged that it was part of an increasingly competitive market, with mopre rivals entering the online sales platform sector in a bid to secure a portion of a used car market worth around £90 million a year.
It stated that innovations which allowed customers to search by criteria – rather than brand or model – had boosted its offering and the time people spend on the site.
Consumers spent over 676 million minutes a month on the site during March, compared to 458 million a year previously.
Despite the buoyant financial results, Auto Trader revealed that it aims to be as “lean as possible” in its operations in order to “enable our teams to be as productive as they can be”.
This year the business reduced its headcount (including contractors) from 915 to 859.
Auto Trader’s marketing spend, meanwhile, has grown by 2% to £15.7 million, meanwhile.