New York - Asbury Automotive Group, Inc. (NYSE: ABG), one of the largest automotive retail and service companies in the U.S., has reported financial results for the fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2007.
Adjusted income from continuing operations for the fourth quarter was $12.7 million, or $0.39 per diluted share, compared to $14.6 million, or $0.43 per diluted share, in the fourth quarter of last year. These results have been adjusted for non-core items, as disclosed in the attached tables, including a $0.03 per diluted share increase to our reserves during the quarter for legal claims arising in, and before, the year 2003, and a $0.03 per diluted share net benefit from non-core items in the prior year's quarter. Income from continuing operations for the fourth quarter was $11.5 million, or $0.36 per diluted share, compared with $15.8 million, or $0.46 per diluted share, a year ago. Net income for the quarter totaled $11.0 million, or $0.34 per diluted share, compared to $12.0 million, or $0.35 per diluted share, in the fourth quarter of last year.
President and CEO, Charles R. Oglesby, said, "Asbury faced a very challenging environment for vehicle sales -- both new and used -- in the fourth quarter, with notable softness in our key Florida markets. Our service businesses again performed well, as fixed operations delivered same-store growth of 4% and F&I income reached a record level of $1,057 per vehicle retailed. We also made significant progress during the quarter in adjusting expenses to the current market conditions, by reducing our advertising, staffing levels and used vehicle inventories."
Income from continuing operations, adjusted for non-core items, for the year increased 5% to $69.5 million, or $2.09 per diluted share, from $66.2 million, or $1.94 per diluted share, in 2006 (refer to attached tables for reconciliation of non-core items). For the year, income from continuing operations was $54.3 million, or $1.63 per diluted share, compared with $67.1 million, or $1.97 per diluted share, in 2006. Net income for the year totaled $51.0 million, or $1.53 per diluted share, compared to $60.7 million, or $1.78 per diluted share, last year.
Mr. Oglesby continued, "For the full year, diluted earnings per share, excluding non-core items, increased 8%, a solid performance in view of the retail environment. We achieved significant cost savings from our debt refinancing early in the year, and began implementing a new dealership technology platform that will reduce expenses and drive efficiency gains in the years ahead. We also successfully stepped up our acquisition program, acquiring dealerships with approximately $350 million in annualized revenues - well above our target of $200 million."
J. Gordon Smith, Senior Vice President and CFO, commented on the Company's outlook for 2008, adding, "While retail market conditions are likely to remain difficult throughout 2008, we believe our expense reductions have positioned us well. We are establishing an initial guidance range for 2008 diluted earnings per share from continuing operations of between $1.80 and $2.00. This guidance is based on a range for U.S. new vehicle unit sales of between 15.3 million and 15.5 million for the full year, as well as a projected decline in our same store used unit volumes of between 5% and 8%."
On January 31, 2008, Asbury's board of directors declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.225 per share of the Company's outstanding common stock payable on February 29, 2008, to stockholders of record as of the close of business on February 8, 2008.