DETROIT -- Car dealership group AutoNation Inc. on Thursday reported net income flat in the fourth quarter, but said earnings per share rose after the company bought back some stock.
AutoNation, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said it earned $79 million, or 28 cents per share, compared with earnings of $79 million, or 26 cents per share, a year earlier.
AutoNation said in October that it expected fourth-quarter earnings of 27 cents to 29 cents per share from its core business, excluding one-time items totaling 5 cents per share.
Analysts had expected the company to earn 28 cents per share, excluding the one-time items, according to Reuters Research, a unit of Reuters Plc.
AutoNation said its total revenue rose to $4.60 billion from $4.52 billion, driven by higher new vehicle sales and stronger revenues from parts and service and finance and insurance.
AutoNation said it expects first-quarter earnings in the range of 29 cents to 31 cents per share, and 2004 earnings per share of from $1.40 to $1.45.
Three analysts surveyed by Reuters Research all expected the company to earn 31 cents per share in the first quarter. The average estimate of six analysts for 2004 earnings was $1.42 per share, according to Reuters Research.