Swedish auto retailer Bilia gave shareholders a 23.4 percent return for the quarter. The company reported a 26 percent increase in net profit in 2004 to 207 million Swedish kronor (E22.6 million) and a 7 percent boost in sales to 11.9 billion kronor compared with 2003.
The positive results helped push Bilia's dividend up 67 percent to 7.5 krone a share.
In February, the company said it will sell vehicles from Korean carmaker Kia, the fastest growing brand in Europe.
Bilia has been operating mostly Renault and Volvo dealerships in Scandinavia -- Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway -- with smaller operations in France, Italy and Germany.
"Bilia has outshone the UK listed players because it is operating in a more attractive market than the UK, where new-car sales are falling and competition is fiercer," said Philip Wylie, automotive leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers corporate finance.
First quarter new-car sales in UK fell 7.2 percent to 701,506 compared with the same period in 2004. Combined sales in the Scan-dinavia rose 2 percent to 158,274 units in Q1 compared with Q1 2004.
European Motor Holdings scored a 15.2 percent gain in value during Q1. Analysts see EMH as better positioned to cope with falling sales in the UK because of its addition of high-end car dealerships. In March, EMH bought two Bentley outlets in Leicester and Norwich.
Bentley's western European sales jumped 671 percent last year compared with 2003.
Looking for help
HR Owen's shareholder return declined 0.3 percent in the quarter. The company continues to suffer from the high cost of doing business in the London area. Chairman John MacArthur said that "a more equitable approach to cost sharing from a number of the group's principal [auto] manufacturers" is required.
"This might be wishful thinking," Wylie said.
The announcement that investment bank Rothschild has been appointed to undertake a "strategic review of options" at HR Owen, had no immediate impact on the shares.