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Pendragon founder Trevor Finn to start 'next chapter' in automotive sector

Former Pendragon chief executive Trevor Finn

Pendragon founder Trevor Finn has suggested that he is poised to make a return to the automotive sector almost 12 months after departing the former AM100-topping car retail group.

In a post published on social networking website LinkedIn yesterday (April 30), Finn presented a timeline of highlights from his time with the group, from its stock market floatation in September 1989 and leading the sector’s consolidation push, to the creation of its 2007 used car programme (UCM).

And he said that recent research trips to establish his first move post-Pendragon would soon result in the start of the “next chapter” in his career.

Finn revealed that he had been subject to post-employment restrictions that limited his activity in the UK until now, but added: “I have been busy, understanding the evolution of new and used car distribution and my future part in it.

“This has involved no fewer than 25 trips to European and USA markets which has reaffirmed what I see as the significant opportunity for used car profit growth.

“I am excited to say that I will be launching the next chapter very soon – watch this space – but for now, I wish your family and loved ones well at this time.”

Among Finn’s career highlights, spelled out in his online post this week, he hailed Pendragon’s early push for growth in used cars, following the launch of its 2007 used car programme (UCM).

“Between 2011 and 2015 bottom line used car profitability in our Evans Halshaw division increased 90% to £42.5m,” he said.

But Finn also conceded that the organisation had “learned a lot about the negatives of fast growth in used cars”.

In 2015, Pendragon’s UK-wide Car Store used car retail business was born as part of a strategy for the growth of the existing business’s used car performance.

Finn said that, by March 2019, the Car Store team had “really accelerated the growth and profitability in a way we had not seen since the early days of UCM”, adding that the team had bonded and the numbers and data were all going in a positive direction.

However, Finn’s 2019 departure from Pendragon – which followed a £44.4m pre-tax loss in its 2018 financial results – was swiftly followed by a thorough review of its UK operations which resulted in Car Store boss Chris Caygill being placed on “gardening leave” and the closure of 22 of the group’s 35 Car Stores, resulting in widespread redundancies.

In March Pendragon revealed that it had suffered a £117.4 million loss after tax in 2019 in an annual results statement that revealed the full impact of “significant H1 losses”.

The group, which trades under the Evans Halshaw and Stratstone brands, restructured its business in 2019 could not arrest its ailing its fortunes.

Turnover declined by 2.6% to £4.5 billion (2018: £4.63bn) – up 3.8% on a like-for-like basis – as post-tax losses grew from £50.5m in 2018 to £117.4m.

Much of that was caused by write-downs of goodwill and assets.

Nevertheless, Pendragon's pre-tax earnings swung from a £47.8 profit in 2018 to a £16.4m loss in 2019.

Net debt had been reduced during 2019 by £6.4m to £119.7m as at December 31, 2019.

Pendragon’s recently-appointed chief executive, Bill Berman, insisted that the business remained “a company with great potential and a very strong team”, however, adding: "2019 was a year of transition for the Group that played out against challenging market conditions, however, we returned to profitable growth in the second half and this provides us with a solid platform for the coming year.”

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