AutoNation profit up 15 percent


Associated Press

AutoNation, the country’s largest car dealership chain, shrugged off winter storms that cut auto sales early this year and posted a nearly 15 percent increase in first-quarter net income.

The Fort Lauderdale company said it made $95.1 million, or 78 cents per share, from January through March. That compares with $83 million, or 67 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue grew 6.5 percent to $4.36 billion.

Excluding a $5 million gain from disposing of businesses and properties, the company made 75 cents per share from continuing operations. That beat Wall Street estimates of 73 cents. Revenue also was ahead of Wall Street. Analysts polled by data provider FactSet expected $4.32 billion.

The company said the first 10 weeks of the quarter were hurt by repeated winter storms across much of the country in what AutoNation called the “great freeze of 2014.” But during warmer weather of the last 10 days of March, sales rebounded sharply, the company said.

The company’s retail vehicle sales were up 5 percent for the quarter, and AutoNation still expects 3 percent to 5 percent U.S. industry growth this year for an annual selling rate of 16 million.

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