AutoNation posts stronger-than-expected profit

DETROIT, April 18 Thu Apr 18, 2013 7:13am EDT

DETROIT, April 18 (Reuters) - AutoNation Inc, the largest U.S. auto dealer group, on Thursday posted a stronger-than-expected quarterly profit on increased demand for both new and used cars.

The company also reaffirmed its outlook for U.S. industry new-vehicle sales this year to finish in the mid-15 million range, which would be up from 14.5 million last year.

Net income in the first quarter increased about 14 percent to $83 million, or 67 cents a share, compared with $73 million, or 55 cents a share, in the year-earlier quarter.

Earnings from continuing operations were 68 cents a share, 4 cents better than analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S had expected.

Revenue rose 12 percent from last year to almost $4.1 billion, above the $4.03 billion analysts had expected. Retail new-vehicle unit sales rose 9 percent overall and 6 percent on a same-store basis, while used-vehicle unit sales increased 10 percent overall or 7 percent on a same-store basis.

AutoNation said its rebranding strategy, under which it is renaming its stores to the parent company's name, is about 30 percent complete and the company plans to complete that transition in the second quarter.

The company also said it has signed deals to buy a Honda and a Hyundai store in Phoenix and a Toyota store in Dallas. The deals, expected to close in the second quarter, will add about $250 million in combined annual revenue.