DULUTH, Ga. — Asbury Automotive Group Inc. reported income from continuing operations of $5 million for the fourth quarter 2009, compared to a loss from continuing operations of $352.4 million in the year-ago period.  

Net income for the fourth quarter of 2009 totaled $0.2 million, compared with a loss of $369.7 million a year ago.

Fourth quarter 2009 revenues totaled $898.6 million, compared to $880.1 million reported in the year-ago period. This 2.1 percent increase in revenues was driven primarily by relative strength in new- and used-vehicle revenues.  

Fourth quarter F&I revenue was $21.7 million, down from $27 million in the year-ago period. F&I revenue for 2009 was $90.8 million, down from $130.5 million in 2008.

"Our ability to generate increased profitability this quarter, compared to the fourth quarter of last year, demonstrates the continuing benefits of our cost-savings initiatives as well as the strength of our portfolio of brands and geographies," said Charles Oglesby, Asbury's president and CEO.

Company officials said Asbury’s heavy truck business continued to be hard-hit by the unfavorable home building and construction markets. In the fourth quarter, Asbury’s new heavy truck revenues declined 33 percent compared to the prior period and, on a pre-tax basis, its heavy truck business lost $1.6 million in the fourth quarter, driven primarily by inventory losses. Asbury’s heavy truck business generated a pre-tax loss of $1.8 million in 2009 versus a $3.5 million pre-tax profit in 2008.

Asbury’s revenues for 2009 totaled $3.7 billion, compared to $4.4 billion in the prior year. For the full year 2009, income from continuing operations was $24.2 million, compared with a loss of $323.4 million in the corresponding period last year.

The company headed into 2010 in a strong liquidity position, with available liquidity of approximately $243 million, including $85 million of cash and credit facility and borrowing availability of approximately $158 million, said Craig Monaghan, Asbury's senior vice president and chief financial officer.

Asbury also repurchased over $7 million in subordinated debt during the fourth quarter and has no material debt maturities scheduled until 2012. Asbury’s board of directors also reauthorized the company to repurchase up to $30 million in debt over the next 12 months, according to Monaghan.

“Clearly, our financial position has strengthened over the last year," he said.

Asbury also reduced its operating costs by $87 million in 2009 compared to 2008.

"Asbury has dramatically improved its operating performance in 2009 compared to 2008 despite a 21 percent drop in SAAR over the same period. … we believe the company is well-positioned to generate significantly improved earnings as sales volumes recover," Oglesby concluded.