UK-Based Car Dealer's Global Sales Hit £6bn
A London-based car dealer has seen its full-year profit rise 10%, on multinational sales of £6.1bn.
Inchcape, which sells and distributes cars for leading manufacturers, reported 2012 pre-tax profit of £250.3m, up from £227.7m on a year earlier.
The company, which operates in 26 countries, saw sales grow 4.4%, to take it past the £6bn barrier.
Inchcape said it posted the better-than-expected profit rise due to strong growth in Asia and Britain, up 31.6% and 3.6% respectively.
The company said its recent investment in high growth and high margin areas in Asia Pacific and emerging markets, including Hong Kong, Chile and Australia, were paying off.
"The Inchcape group may operate below the radar by associating itself with the diverse number of mainstream car brands that it sells, but that is part of its success," Autocar editor Jim Holder told Sky News.
"Much of Inchcape's success in the past year is believed to have been driven by sales in the luxury car sectors, including Land Rover, Mercedes, BMW and Audi, and the ever-increasing mainstream success of VW."
The company recently bought Australia's luxury car group Trivett, giving it exposure to premium brands to which it was not previously exposed in the region.
Meanwhile sales in Europe fell 23.5% as trading conditions, particularly those in Greece, continued to struggle.
European car sales slumped to a 17-year low in 2012 with only Britain bucking the trend with 5.3% growth - but UK sales still remain at 15% below 2007 levels.
The company said it was confident it would deliver further growth in 2013 given that 70% of its group profit now comes from non-European markets.
"Asia Pacific and emerging markets ... are underpinned by population growth, wealth creation, increasing car penetration and industry premiumisation," chief executive Andre Lacroix said.
"We are confident that Inchcape will continue to produce sustainable earnings growth and strong returns for our shareholders."
However, early trading in London saw the company's share price drop more than 2%.
"It's a fact that the European car market has split - and that the top and bottom ends are thriving - while the middle market is struggling," Mr Holder said.
"Upmarket cars inevitably carry upmarket price tags, and larger profit margins. That's great news for the car manufacturers and their go-betweens, of which Inchape is one of the most prolific."
The company was named after its founder, James Mackay, who was given the peerage of Baron Inchcape in 1911.
The name refers to a lighthouse built in the early 19th century on a submerged reef offshore of Arbroath, on the east coast of Scotland.