LONDON Feb 19 (Reuters) - Car dealer Pendragon posted an 18 percent rise in full-year profit, helped by growing new car sales in Britain, Europe's only bright spot for car sales.
The company, which runs 250-plus retail outlets, trading as Stratstone, Evans Halshaw and Quicks, on Tuesday reported a 2012 underlying pretax profit of 36.4 million pounds ($56.35 million) on revenues 5 percent higher at 3.63 billion pounds.
The auto retailer said its car volumes increased by 15 percent during the year on a like-for-like basis, helped, in part, by an 18 percent increase in visitors to its main dealer websites.
Britain was the only bright spot in European car sales last year, growing 5.3 percent in 2012 to 2.04 million units, data from industry body SMMT showed, but that was still 15 percent below the 2007, pre-recession, level of 2.4 million units.
Pendragon also said former KPMG partner Mel Egglenton would become chairman in May, succeeding Mike Davies, who will retire.
The car dealer, which returned to the dividend list with a 0.1 pence per share handout, said its net debt stood at 216.4 million pounds at the end of the financial year, which is a 30.4 million pounds reduction in debt.
The company said it expected vehicle markets in the UK to continue their recovery, with growth expected in new and used sales as well as aftersales.