Lithia sweeps Shareholder Value retailer awards
Lithia Motors Inc. again swept the retailer category in the annual Global Automotive Share-holder Value Awards in January.
Lithia Motors' return to shareholders topped that of all public auto dealership groups in two time-frame categories. Lithia returned 74 percent in 2012 and almost quintupled over three years, according to the Shareholder Value Index developed jointly by Automotive News and PwC.
Lithia has led automotive retailers in one-year returns for the last three years. It was also the second straight year Lithia took the honors in three-year returns.
Measuring shareholder value for the awards is simple: Calculate how the value of $100 invested in a public company changes during the period, counting share price, adjusting for any stock splits, and assuming any dividends are reinvested.
The Shareholder Value Index also measures returns by automakers and automotive suppliers. Among automakers, Volkswagen AG led in one-year return, while BMW Group led in three-year return. Among suppliers, Continental AG of Germany led in one-year return and Plastic Omnium Co. of France led in three-year return to investors.
Lithia's surpassing all public new-vehicle dealership groups in both time frames was especially difficult considering how well the category has performed.
The average one-year return for retailers was 28.7 percent, and four retailers topped 40 percent. AutoNation Inc., with a 7.7 percent return, was the only company with less than a 21 percent gain last year.
And over three years, all six retailers in the group at least doubled shareholder value.
Lithia, of Medford, Ore., has spent the past three years improving performance in all business lines, said Jeff Zaleski, PwC's U.S. automotive transaction services partner.
"Lithia's growth has been complemented by acquisitions, a recently expanded credit facility and an improving vehicle-sales environment," he said.
Lithia expects sales to keep improving, CEO Bryan DeBoer told Automotive News.
He expects both new- and used-vehicle sales to grow 8 to 10 percent in 2013 and revenue from same-store fixed operations to increase 2 to 3 percent.
"About half of our growth will come from that," DeBoer said. "The other half is going to come from market conquest, which means we're going to take market share. That's what we've been doing over the last couple of years."
DeBoer said Lithia has a $200 million war chest for potential acquisitions of dealerships.
Lithia, which operates 87 dealerships in 11 mostly Western states, has a current market capitalization of $1.1 billion. As U.S. light-vehicle sales have shown double-digit growth for three straight years, Lithia share prices have also rebounded.
Lithia shares currently are trading above $40. The stock hit a low of $1.98 on March 6, 2009, during the worst quarter of U.S. auto sales in decades.
Jamie LaReau contributed to this report
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