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East Anglia: Motor retail group Lookers reports strong first half

16:32 13 August 2014

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Motor dealership chain Lookers said today sales of new cars jumped 15% in the first half of this year as it powered to record interim profits and raised its forecasts for 2014 as a whole.

The Manchester-based firm, which has 127 franchised dealerships representing 31 marques from 77 locations, including Colchester, Sudbury, Braintree and Chelmsford, has been boosted by the UK economy and a return to more normal trading conditions.

The used-car market also showed signs of improvement with like-for-like sales up 5%, which helped adjusted pre-tax profits jump 36% to £40.2million in the six months to June 30.

The business said sales lifted 10% to 1.29m vehicles across the industry over the last six months, and is set to top 2.4m for the year, at least 6% ahead of 2013.

The group added it was also optimistic about its performance in the key September selling period. September and March are strong months as they are the two times a year when new registration plates are issued, and together account for around a third of the annual market.

The firm, which also sells parts and servicing, includes Taggarts showrooms in Scotland and Charles Hurst in Northern Ireland.

Chief executive Andy Bruce said: “We have delivered a strong trading performance in the first half of the year which is another record result and represents six successive years of profit improvement.

“Lookers is well placed to take advantage of further growth opportunities in the new and used car markets and increased demand for aftersales and parts. This gives us confidence that we can continue to grow the business and deliver improved results for the full year.”

Lookers said it has bought seven businesses since the start of the financial year, including rival dealership Colborne in March for £33.6m. This dealership operates eight forecourts in the South East selling Audis, Bentleys, Skodas and Volkswagens.

The market had expected Lookers to turn in a full-year pre-tax profit of £57.3 million, but a number of analysts are now upgrading their forecasts.

Brokers at Numis have raised the annual pre-tax forecast for Lookers by £2.8m to £60.3m. Numis added: “Lookers has reported an exceptional first half trading performance.”

The firm was founded by John Looker in 1908 in Manchester and was originally a bicycle and parts shop.

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